game of thrones

It’s that time of year again, our dear summer children. Game of Thrones will be returning to television for its seventh season, and we here at The NYRD, thought it would be a good time to delve into the series and -again- talk about why it resonates with modern viewing audiences. Now, let’s be clear, there is a lot of parallels we can obviously choose from: narcissistic mad rulers, climate change, and even over-the-top violence. However, we want to go a little deeper with this, so today we are going to be looking at Game of Thrones as an interregnum. What is an interregnum? Well, glad you asked…

A Song of Interregnum and Fire
George RR Martin loves to borrow from history when it comes to Game of Thrones, and the concept of the interregnum is no different. The world literally translates as “between reigns,” and historically refers to periods like the Great Interregnum, which started in 1250, when the Holy Roman Emperor died and there were no clear successors. It lasted for 23 years as various contenders vied, fought, and back-stabbed their way to the throne. Sound familiar?

More generally, the term has come to symbolize a period of time when societies and governments are in flux. It is a time often characterized by the breakdown of traditions, the decay of long-held values, and general upheaval and uncertainty. Look at the world of Game of Thrones. After Robert Baratheon dies, the seven kingdoms break down into literal warring factions over who should be king. The tradition-steeped Night’s Watch has decayed into little more than a ragtag group of criminals and misguided bastards. The Freys break longstanding and conventional morality to murder the Stark family while they dine under the protection of their roof. All of this is indicative of an interregnum, a time when it feels as if the very fabric of a familiar society is tearing itself apart.

It is also what makes Game of Thrones so fascinating to us in the modern world, because it could be argued that the world -and specifically America- is currently in an interregnum. Now, we’re not just talking about what’s going on this year, at this moment. After all, we may have a President with record low approval ratings, bags of governmental uncertainty, and plenty of people complaining that the very moral fiber of our civilization is unraveling faster that someone’s internal organs after they’ve been sliced by Valyrian steel. We are not even talking about our own impeding white walker doom that is constantly hanging over our heads. You see our interregnum and the success of Game of Thrones has nothing to do with Trump, or even Obama. We’re Americans, and we always exist in a constant state of interregnum.

Red, Blue, and White Walkers
The English Interregnum lasted  from 1649 to 1660, and -similar to Robert’s Rebellion- it was preceded by a Civil War that ended in the execution of the former king, Charles I. After that, the English monarch and parliament were briefly replaced by a council and a lord protectorate. It ended when Charles II was put on throne and parliament was reestablished in 1660. The English Interregnum -like all the historical and non-dragon-related interregnums of our world- is significant because it marks a departure from business as usual, which for most of recorded history has been monarchies. Kings, queens, and their progeny ruled nations both big and small for centuries, and despite all the failings of monarchy -or even tyranny- the good ones do give a sort of steady and reliable structure.

However, we do not live in a monarchy. In fact, the United States of America was born and continues to exist in a sort of long interregnum. The colonists threw out the British monarchy and established a democracy, creating a cycle of short leadership and uncertain politics. Add to this that every decade, every year, and even every week, we now have some new piece of technology or social advancement that continues to disrupt our status quo. So, to many our world may seem more chaos than order. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, we cannot shake a feeling of uncertainty when we think about a future under Obama, or under Trump, or under one of the Bushes, or under one of the Clintons, or under Hoover, or Johnson, or even Millard Fillmore. There is no guarantee that the things we value will be shared by the person in power for the next four to eight years. That means we have real stakes in each election. So, each election becomes like the War of Five Kings -or in the case of the GOP Primaries, the War of Five Kings and like Twenty Other Guys.

Our ancestors lived using the same technology and adhering to the same religious and philosophical understandings as their grandparents and their great grandparents. The most uncertain times they ever had were when the monarchy changed hands. In modern times, we experience that transfer of power every four years. Meanwhile, our grandparents and great grandparents are still trying to figure out how to set the clock on the VCR that we threw away ten years ago. Modern times moves fast, and whether its gay marriage or the newest iPhone, our lives are completely different than the one’s lived by any generation who preceded us. The interregnum of Game of Thrones is relatable to modern Americans because we live and work in constant political and moral ambiguity.

The Winds of What’s Next?
Politics in America have become hugely divided between left and right. It’s a gap that has been growing since the 80’s, and in this war of ideas, we like to paint our political side as the good guys, the smart ones, the just ones, etc. Yet, let’s face it, that’s a very wrong way of looking at the world, as Game of Thrones often shows. With the exception of one or two characters, no character is ever portrayed as truly good or truly bad. Our sympathies for people like Jamie, or the Hound, or even Cersei change all the time. So how come -in the real world- we don’t give the same courtesy to our own political adversaries, especially those on Ye Olde Facebook? Maybe if we started considering that, then maybe elections would feel less like the Red Wedding.

Another characteristic of an interregnum is that things can change. After the wars and the conflicts subside new traditions, new philosophies, and new values all arise. Let’s return to the example of the Night’s Watch. After the chaos of the last White Walker invasion, the Night’s Watch was established, as was the Wall. It was an entire new knightly order that broke boundaries of lineage, nationality, and even economic standing. Thousands of honorable men, both noble and common, manned castles and strongholds all along the Wall. They stood as silent and valiant watchers over the safety of the world. There is every indication that after the climax of Game of Thrones, the Night’s Watch may be reborn again, or something new entirely will arise to take its place.

The journeys of Daeny, Jon, and even Tyrion would not be possible in a world of stable leadership. Jon Snow is born a bastard, but he’s able to work his way up to great heights. So, yes, our world feels constantly in flux. Our politics, our culture, our values, and everything around us changes faster than a single human life span. In the days of our ancestors those types of changes took decades -if not centuries- except for periods of interregnum. We relate to Game of Thrones, because on some level we keenly understand the uncertainty, maybe more than any other generation in history. We live in a new paradigm, a perpetual interregnum, but that also means we are living in a era of perpetual possibility.

television

Have you been watching Legion on FX? It’s a TV show based off of an obscure X-Men character of the same name, but if you are tuning into Legion to get the typical mutant on mutant violence, straight-forward plots, and the fast-paced entertainment of the movies, than you will be disappointed. The show may live in the same universe as the X-Men movies, but it certainly does not occupy the same type of space as them. It is TV show -like so many of our time- that is completely different than the summer-popcorn-fest cinema that we have come to know. Legion is admittedly “trippy,” but it is also striving to tell a long form and memorable story, rather than just the typical 120-minute saga of Blue Jennifer Lawrence and Old Hugh Jackman. That got us thinking: you see, in Legion there is a character with the ability to swap-bodies, and we have to wonder if maybe that is also what happened to movies and television. Maybe when we weren’t looking they switched bodies…

Previously On…
There was a time when television was regarded as frivolous entertainment. 30-minute irrelevant stories about Wally and the “Beave” interlaced by commercials for the latest car or soap product. By the time the credits rolled everyone watching knew that life for the characters on their small screens would go back to the status-quo. There was never any danger of worrying that someone on Star Trek might die -unless of course, they were a disposable red-shirted background actor- There was also no danger of complex multi-episode plots -unless of course, it was a “special” TV event- For the most part, a person could sit down in front of their TV, watch a show, and never care about the episode that came before or after it.

Movies on the other hand were where the real drama took place. People went to the movies to watch epics of massive proportion where “real” actors poured their heart out as Atlanta burned behind them and they just didn’t give a “damn.” No character in the movies were safe, and there was no telling who would live, who would die, and who would be irrevocably changed for the experience. Movies were ambitious with casts of thousands, filmed in far off locations, as opposed to fix television studio sets. Movies told stories of sorrow and triumph, with budgets to match their scale.

Yet, things have changed. Don’t get us wrong, ,ovie budgets are even more massive than ever, but only so far as the studio can guarantee a return on their investment. After all, that is all that matters. Nowadays, it is the cinema that has become predictable and irrelevant entertainment. We watch an X-Men movie and we are pretty sure most of the characters we like are going to make it out alive. After all, Fox needs to make six more movies and they want people to keep coming back. Really, that is what the movie industry is about now, episodic blockbusters aimed at guaranteeing a lucrative cash flow. It’s the reason most Michael Bay movies have more product placement in them than an infomercial at 3 am. It’s also the reason why studios have started heavily investing in recognizable and predictable names from comics, video games, and even old TV shows. It guarantees them a nostalgic audience and a steady revenue of profit. For audience members it guarantees a few hours of forgettable entertainment.

Television on the other hand, has started taking risks. Long form storytelling means that you are no longer tuning into single stand-alone episodes, but one part of a longer story. Characters are no longer safe, not on Walking Dead, not on Breaking Bad, and especially not on Game of Thrones. TV has now become more analogous to books, where each episode is a chapter in a longer story. So characters come and go as appropriate to the plot, not the profit margin. There is a reason that movie directors and producers -like Bryan Singer and James Cameron- are flocking to the small screen. It has become a medium where people are taking risks, making small but noteworthy stories, and creating memorable moments and performances from actors of all talents, popularity, and ranges of British-ness.

After These Messages…
So how did we get like this? Well two trends really had a lot of impact on the way we view television, and like any good story it was a slow build up. To examine the rise of TV, first and foremost, we need to examine the idea of the story-arc or the TV serial. It is what we now sometimes refer to as long form television. The idea of the “serial” has been around since radio. Back then people would tune in every week to hear the ongoing adventures of The Shadow, or to “Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman.” Yet, during the age of television the idea of multi-episode story-arc fell out of favor, except in the form of daytime soap operas, but that was not considered a serious medium. TV shows like V and Dallas attempted the idea to varying degrees of success, but they were hard to stay with. If you missed an episode there was no way to catch up until reruns.

The idea of story-arcs made a comeback in the 90’s thanks -in no small part- to The X-Files. Their mix of “monster of the week” and “mythology” shows meant that audiences could still miss some episodes and not feel lost in the overall plot of the series. It was a formula that The X-Files -more or less- stumbled into, but it was replicated by other shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Thus, in the 90’s television started becoming a little bit more than just momentary diversions. Shows started becoming longer and more involved stories. This really picked up in the realm of sci-fi and fantasy TV, like with Battlestar Galactica, but it soon went mainstream with shows like Lost. The introduction of Netflix and on-demand TV really skyrocketed the market. People could watch shows at their own pace or watch episodes they missed. Streaming TV was the final missing piece in the long form formula. Fast forward to today’s world and we now have TV shows made entirely to be binge-watched. There is no longer a need for “Monster of the Week” fillers, just chapters and layers of the same ongoing story that audiences can consume at their own pace.

Contrast that with movies. In days of yore, movies were an event. Going to the movies was something that people talked about before and after the experience had passed. It was a treat that pulled you away from your humdrum life doing the sock-hop, or whatever it was people did before wifi. The movie industry was a growth industry for the few monopoly studios who could afford to produce content. Of course people were going to go see Ben Hur, or the newest World War II epic or John Wayne western. What else did people have to do? Studios, writers, and producers could afford to make unique stories. They could afford to take risks and produce original ideas. Star Wars, for example, probably sounded like a crazy-man’s dream -It was in fact a crazy man’s sellout dream- but someone still took a risk. Maybe because in those days there was not a lot of competition.

Don’t get us wrong. Studios still competed, but nowadays movie making is not exactly an exclusive art. Cameras are -comparatively- inexpensive. Any NYU student with a bag blowing in the wind can attempt to make a movie. Small studios rise and fall in a matter of years. Yet, it was the invention of the Internet that was the final nail in cinema’s Golden Age. Suddenly, people didn’t need to go to the movies to find their entertainment. Movies could come to them, via streaming, via piracy, or not at all. The Internet also provides a plethora of distractions: music, angry Facebook rants, and even some YouTube movies, which are better made and better quality than anything you might find coming out of Sony. Thus, in 2008 when Iron Man hit the theaters it created a new sort of buzz. It was a recognizable superhero, and both the devout and the curious came to see what it could offer. The movie was good, but the real bell of this new modern age was rung after the credits, spoken by Samuel L. Jackson while wearing an eye path. Suddenly, all the movie studios began to have visions of “expanded universes” or “connected content.” Suddenly, the way to attract audiences from their iPads and Playstations was through recognizable and over-hyped movies. Suddenly, anything with even a tiny bit of brand recognition: toys, video games, comics, etc… all became something to churn out for the blockbuster season. Sure, studios still take some risks and make some new independent movies, but only at much lower budgets and with more than a few caveats.

Next Time On…
Take for example Inception. Most people agree that it was a decent movie and it even did well at the box office. Yet, the only way that movie got made was because Christopher Nolan paid his dues and made a movie about an orphaned rich person who dresses like a bat. Meanwhile, there is another Pirate of the Caribbean movie, and another Transformers movie coming out… even though most people stopped paying attention a decade ago? -Did you know Mark Wahlberg is in them now? Yeah, neither did we- Admittedly, studios always did everything they could to follow money-making trends, but these days movies are no longer the guaranteed cash cows they were back in the fifties and sixties. That means studios are taking less risks. Sure, you’ll always have your Oscar movies, but most of those are now based on books with at least some name recognition. Studios only want big stars playing characters we at least have an awareness of, because that means there is a higher probability that audiences will actually come sit in the seats and watch them. So, that is what movies have become: momentary, irrelevant, and attractive entertainment, and there is no sign of that changing anytime soon.

Television, however, has become the medium of the storyteller. Character driven plots and long form conflicts are propelling the once episodic medium to new heights. TV is becoming less about safety and more about quality. Sure, we still get your standard sit-coms, and even the same sort of name-recognition pandering to things like comics, franchises, and even books. For example, like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods will be debuting soon, but there is an assurance of quality behind it. Long form streaming TV offers the time that is needed to tell stories right, and at the viewers own pace. Just look at Marvel’s Netflix versus Marvel’s movies. They are both entertaining, but which of them stays with you longer? Which of them tells a more complete and satisfying story? Much like the trends of movies, this trend of television also shows no sign of stopping.

Thus, we once again come back to Legion vs X-Men. Both have high points and low points. Both are not perfect, but there is something to be said about the meaningful and mindful approach of television compared to the flash-in-the-pan-summer-blockbuster-hey-look-here-and-give-us-your-money approach of modern movies. Admittedly, we tend to take a more critical approach to movies, but neither medium is inherently bad. It is worth pointing out that movies are entertaining and we love them, but we need to recognize that TV and movies have basically switched places. One is still serious and meaningful, while the other is now fun and forgettable. Either way, it is good to know that our pop culture remains in equilibrium.

This weekend will see the release of two fairy tale inspired stories. The first is the movie, Huntsman: Winter’s War. We recommend that you don’t go see it, but we do recommend that you check out the second one, Game of Thrones. Yes, the story of sex, violence, and dragons returns this Sunday for its sixth season, but is it possible that the HBO fantasy drama is as much about fairy tales as it is about beheadings and boobies? Well, follow us down the road to grandma’s house as we set out to encounter big bad direwolves, giants, and a red witch or two. You might be surprised what we turn up, but don’t be surprised if we reveal spoilers for seasons 1-5.

Once Upon a Tyrion…
As everyone’s favorite Lannister might suggest, we need to first define the problem. What is a fairy tale? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a fairy tale is “a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins),” or “a story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending.” We have to admit that both of those things are true about fairy tales, but does that match up with A Song of Ice and Fire, or Game of Thrones? Both definitely have fantastic forces and creatures, but they are certainly not for children, at least not for children who don’t want to grow up to be Ramsey Bolton. Nor are the George RR Martin novel series and its subsequent TV show filled with happy endings, just ask anyone named Stark or Snow. So how can we compare them with a fairy tale?

Let’s start with the commonalities. Game of Thrones has dragons and even giants, but admittedly there is not a lot of them. Daenerys has just three dragons, and we only ever see that one frost giant among the wildlings. Yet, we are told that such things were more numerous in the ancient days. Things like dragons, giants, and even magic were more plentiful in the stories that Old Nan used to tell Brann Stark before he went to bed. Now those were fairy tales. They were all about heroes defeating monsters, grumpkins, and grave evil to save the kingdoms and winning the hearts of fair maidens. They were filled with love and chivalry and all the things we think of when we hear the word “fairy tale.” In those stories, which took place during the aptly named Age of Heroes, the protagonist were always the good guys. They were able to win the day against all odds and beat back the darkness with the help of magic and courage, just like every fairy tale we know. Old Nan’s stories were always scary, but the improbable events still led to a happy ending. However, it also seems that in the land of Westeros many of those stories -which took place during the Long Night– might actually be true.

Compare those stories to the story we are witnessing in Game of Thrones, which still involve magic and fantastical elements, but the outcome is hardly certain. In fact, things like chivalry, heroism, or true love are usually rewarded with daggers in the dark or even a red wedding. Every good and heroic character -Ned, Robb, Jon- are dead. The most valiant knights are either a narcissistic incestuous cripple, or the Knight of Flowers, who has very little interest in winning a fair lady’s heart -if you know what we mean. The queen is a ruthless power-hungry dictator, the beautiful princess is a conniving schemer. The most heroic character is a disfigured Imp, and for four seasons we were all actively rooting for the death of a blonde-haired child-king. So we ask again? How can we call this a fairy tale?

Joffrey and the Beanstalk
In fact, it’s not a fairy tale, at least not as we consider them. Game of Thrones is a subversion of the fairy tale ideal. The true genius of George RR Martin’s work is that he is showing us what a fairy tale really is. All those old stories that Old Nan used to tell Brann Stark, we can guess that they were probably real. After all, we know that the white walkers are real. The giants are real. The Wall is real. The stories form the Age of Heroes actually happened, but they probably did not happen as their fairy tale versions suggest. One day, in the world of Westeros people may tell the fairy tale version of the great Mother of Dragons and her conquest of Westeros and how the seven kingdoms fought back the invasion of the Others and the new Long Night, but it won’t be this story. It won’t be Game of Thrones. It will be something else.

The fairy tale version of A Song of Ice and Fire will have some of the same elements, but homogenized and embellished. As human beings we like to fit events into simplistic narrative structures. Thus, for the audience and the characters, who have lived and watched the highs and lows of Game of Thrones the series finale might be satisfactory, but probably not “happy.” Yet, to the children of Westeros who will hear the story centuries later, safe in their beds, they will get the happy ending. They will get the true love and the brave knights and all the rest. To them there will be clear cut villains and valiant heroes, and they both may not be who you expect. Remember, history and fairy tales are written by the victors.

The stories those children hear may tell of the evil betrayals of Ned Stark or the vile crimes of Tyrion Lannister. Children may grow up learning that the sweet and generous King Joffery was killed on his wedding day or that Tywin Lannister was a saint and a caring father. Fairy tales tend to wash out the gray and replace it with black and white, but if there is one thing we can say about Game of Thrones, it is almost entirely filled with gray. With very few expectations there are no completely good or completely bad characters. They are all humans with hopes, desires, flaws, and nude bodies, all of which we -the audience- get to see… a lot. So, Martin is telling us  the real story behind that future fairy tale, which will be a story that has no room for nuisance or character flaws. All of that will be wiped out in favor of a neat narrative and a clear cut moral. Yet, maybe you still don’t believe this was George RR Martin’s intent all along. You might be right except…

Little Ned Riding Stark
… He has already painted us a clear picture of this very idea. Maybe the vague connection between the Age of Heroes and the trials of Jon Snow are too obscure, but Martin has given us an even more relevant example. The rebellion of Robert Baratheon and Eddard Stark has already become something of a fairy tale, and it has only been a single generation since they deposed the Mad King and took over the kingdom. Yet, all the elements are there. Brave Robert Baratheon -enraged by the abduction of his beloved Lyanna Stark- starts a war to win her back. Along with her brother and his best friend, Ned, they rally the forces of justice and good to overthrow the Mad King, Aerys Targaryan, and his evil son Rhaegar. Robert and his mighty war hammer defeat Rhaegar in single combat during the heroic Battle of the Trident, but alas he is too late to save his beloved Lyanna. Still, he heroically defeats the Mad King and justice rules over the lands of Westeros once again.

That is typically how that story is often portrayed whenever characters in Game of Thrones talk about it, but we have already had some hints at cracks in that fantastical façade. First of all, Aerys Targaryan was killed by Jamie Lannister, his own kingsguard, who stabbed him through the back. That is the sort of thing people are aware of, but often gets left out of the “official” story. This dichotomy is also most clearly seen with Rhaegar. Whenever Robert talked about him we got an image of a mad man composed of butchery and evil. Yet, whenever Daenerys -his sister- talks about him we get the sense of a warm, caring, and brave individual. Two completely separate ideas from two completely opposing view points. We are seeing how point of view colors the retelling of tales, and how it is the winners who most often write history and fairy tales. This is further proven by the many many hints that Lyanna Stark was not abducted and raped by Rhaegar, but that she was in love with him. -r+l=j- However, this sort of nuance does not work for a heroic tale of good versus evil, and is all but forgotten in the retellings.

In the end, Robert Baratheon became king and married the beautiful Cersi Lannister. To the story that was the happy ending, but to Robert it was clearly bitter sweet. Martin is showing us that in real life there rarely is a “happily ever after,” and he is doing so by using a genre that epitomizes that idea. Robert and Ned may have won the day, but happy endings are only about where the story stops, because if you keep following the lives of Ned and Robert you know that their stories don’t end so happily after all. From the very first season, Game of Thrones has been trying to prove this point. The books and the TV series have always been about subverting expectations and bucking tropes.

So we ask again, “is A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV show a fairy tale?” Yes, it is about fairy tale ideas, knights, magic, bravery, princesses and kings, but it is showing us the story before it gets cleaned and homogenized and becomes just another bed time retelling. All the other elements, the fantasy, the swordplay, the magic are there. Game of Thrones is a real-life fairy tale. It is meant to expose the truth behind fairy tales, because they may be great as stories, but that is all they are, stories. The world cannot always be defined by “Once upon a time,” and especially never by “Happily ever after…” But then again, maybe we’re wrong. Maybe Season 6 will prove that Jon Snow is only just unconscious, and waiting for Love’s True Kiss.

If you have not been keeping up with the adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog on Adventure Time then you have been missing out. Their home, the Land Ooo, is a magical off-the-wall place where a boy and his talking dog can play and have adventures all day long, but under its cheerful exterior is a harsher reality. Finn is the last human and the Land of Ooo only exists because of a terrible event known as the Great Mushroom War. Yet, what if there was even another layer of meaning beneath that one? What if Adventure Time only existed in the head of a small and lonely child?

The Land of Ooo
We are not the first people to come up with fantastic theories to explain the over-the-top wackiness of Adventure Time, as the Land of Ooo is a strange and crazy place. Yet, what if the Land of Ooo -where Adventure Time takes place- is really only in the imagination of Finn, a 13 year old boy living a lonely life in a rundown apartment building with his dog and his equally lonely father. Also, the inhabitants of Ooo are therefore real people who inhabit the apartment complex that the real Finn lives in. This may all seem a little farfetched but stay with us.

We say that the real Finn lives in a run down apartment building for two reasons. First, the Land of Ooo, can be taken as a whimsical name, or we can take it for the last three digits on Finn’s apartment. The real Finn may live in apartment 1000 or 2000 or 3000, but the first number fell off and nobody bothered to replace it. Also, supporting this idea is the devastation we sometimes see in the background of Adventure Time. Episodes are littered with forgotten cars, street signs, and even old buildings. In the cartoon these are meant to be remnants of the civilization that existed before the Land of Ooo, the one destroyed by the Mushroom War -think: mushroom cloud- but what if there is more to it? It also makes sense that Finn is living in a low rent apartment building, considering he is alone most of the time as his father has to work a lot to help them get by.

The Mushroom War is talked about only vaguely, but we do know that it was a devastating event that destroyed the human world. Almost no humans survived and it literally blew off chunks of the Earth. Adventure Time, actually takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, though you would never know as a casual viewer. It is rarely talked about, just like what happens when a devastating event takes place in the life of a young boy. The real Finn’s mother died, tragically. It destroyed his world causing him to retreat into fantasy. Just like in Adventure Time nobody seems to talk about this immense and heart-breaking event, especially with Finn. There is a reason Finn is the only human in Adventure Time, because even in his fantasy world he feels alone, like no one else can understand what it is like to be him. After his mother died his world literally ended.

Inhabitants of Ooo
Jake the Dog, is Finn’s best friend. Maybe the real Jake was a present from his mother before she passed away. Regardless, Jake is the only person Finn can really open up to, besides BMO. BMO, is Finn and Jake’s sentient computer/video game system. He/she is also ambiguously gendered, much like any computer might be. Jake and BMO make sense in the world of a lonely boy who only has his dog and video games for company. It is also worth noting that BMO is certainly not state of the art. His/her graphics are often pixelated, he/she speaks with a Japanese accent, and his/her graphics are colored green like on an old Gameboy system, further supporting the notion that Finn is poor. Though Jake and BMO are Finn’s closest confidants they are not his only friends.

Other residents of the apartment complex often make appearances in Finn’s fantasies. Tree Trunks, the elderly elephant that bakes pies, Cinnamon Bun, the mentally challenged but kind-hearted homeless pastry creature, old man Starchy, Shelby the worm, Peppermint Butler, and the rest fit nicely as residents of the apartment complex. They are people Finn interacts with on a normal basis. Lady Rainacorn -Jake’s girlfriend- is possibly another dog or ferret or similiar creature that belongs to a Korean family in another apartment who Jake often enjoys playing with. In the show she only speaks in Korean, possibly like her owners. Jake understands her but Finn does not. Lumpy Space Princess is an annoying girl who Finn sometimes hangs out with, but recognizes that she can be a little bit of a drama princess. Similarly, Flame Princess is a girl that Finn has a crush on, but she can be bad tempered. In fact, most of the princesses can be explained as girls who Finn knows from the apartment complex or as acquaintances at school.

However, there are two girls in particular that stand out. Princess Bubblegum, is most likely an older girl who is Finn’s neighbor. In Adventure Time they give her age as 18 when Finn is 13. This means she is in high school and Finn obviously has a crush on her. In the real world she is often called on to babysit Finn when he is alone. Her age and high school education also accounts why Princess Bubblegum is seen as the smartest person in the land. In the real world she is older than Finn so it seems like she knows everything when compared to the 13 year old boy. In Adventure Time Princess Bubblegum is also said to be the person who made all the other residents of the candy kingdom, most likely because the real world Bubblegum -whose real name is Bonnie- often brings Finn baked goods or candy when she comes to babysit. So to Finn, he associates her with those traits and Bonnie also seems quite fond of Finn, though not in a romantic way, as she is too old for him.

Marceline is a human/demon vampire in Adventure Time. Unlike Princess Bubblegum, Finn has no romantic attachment to her, but they do start off as enemies when Marceline initially tries taking over Finn’s home. Real world Marcy is probably Finn’s cousin or similiar relation, and she comes from a bad home environment. She has a very strained relationship with her father and often survives on her own. Her father rarely seems to care what his daughter is up to, and possibly even abandoned her at a young age. She is also older than even Bonnie/Bubblegum, and is most likely in college or living on her own, though, Bonnie and Marcy do seem to have a preexisting love/hate friendship with one another. In the cartoon Marceline is over 1,000 years old, plays the guitar and often dates jerks and hipsters. Finn’s initial dislike of her most likely resulted from her moving in with Finn and his dad for a short period of time before finding her own apartment -maybe in the same building- but their relationship has since turned more toward friendship and respect. Marceline has obviously come to value her cool little cousin as much as Finn enjoys spending time with her. Marcy also had a close familial relationship with Finn’s father, whom she admires but has since come to pity.

The Ice King
In Adventure Time the Ice King is the main antagonist, but he’s not evil, really he’s just more confused than anything. Simon Pretrikov is his real name, and he was an archeologist who discovered a magic crown that gave him powers but slowly drove him insane, kind of like parenthood. They did however, protect him from the nuclear fallout of the Mushroom War, but did not save the love of his life, Betty. She died and the Ice King quickly lost his grip on the world around him. He has a long white beard and he isn’t in every episode. It is likely that the Ice King represents Finn’s real world father, who probably grew a beard after the death of his wife.

In flashbacks and home videos Simon is seen as a normal and happy person with his fiance, Betty, but the power of the crown -responsibility- and the Mushroom War changed all of that. In Adventure Time, the Ice King is portrayed as irrational and pathetic, but that might just be how Finn sees his father. Sometimes to the minds of children parents seem as if they behave erratically, often doing arbitrary things or imposing punishments that don’t always make sense to the child. However, Simon -like the Ice King- is also lonely. His wife died tragically and he is left raising a son by himself and with very little money. He rarely talks about his wife or what life was like before she died, much as the Ice King on Adventure Time often forgets that he was ever anyone else before what he became. The Ice King and Finn are often at odds, but they also have a lot in common and there are plenty of times where the Ice King just turns up and acts as if he and Finn are best friends. You know, kind of like the same way any father might act with his only son.

Remember, that the residents of Ooo are distortions of their real world counterparts, but even with that said it is possible that the real world Simon, Finn’s father, is slightly more eccentric than most. He’s been through a lot and has faced a lot of hardship in his day. We have to admit he may also have a creepy thing for Bonnie/Bubblegum, as she is often uncomfortable around him. The Ice King does capture a lot of princesses/women, which may represent a lot of failed dating attempts. Yet, there is one female he never made advances toward, Marceline, who is his real-world niece. Adventure Time shows that Marceline and Simon had a preexisting relationship before he went crazy. Simon helped raise her after she was abandoned by her father, and it is very possible this also happened in the real world too. Uncle Simon was very likely the person Marcy turned too when her father disappeared from her life as a child. The two have a special relationship, and it is one that now pains Marceline because she realizes how much Simon has fallen from the kind and caring person who helped raise her.

What Time is It?
Part of the genius of Adventure Time is that is a cartoon that can be enjoyed by children for its colorful animation, offbeat humor, and sense of adventure, but it also speaks to adults on another level. It is meant to invoke these types of feelings and theories that hint at something deeper going on. Each episode teaches a lesson about growing up, a lesson you could see the real world Finn learning as he goes along in life. Even more impressive it that Adventure Time is one of the only cartoon shows where the main character actually ages. Each season Finn has continued to grow taller and his voice has deepened, to the point where he is now said to be about 16 years old.

There is a lot more minutia and other evidence we could have brought in, but it might be better if you find it for yourself. So, keep this theory in mind the next time you pop over to Cartoon Network and watch the happenings of Finn and Jake. We promise you may never watch it the same way again.

A movement on the rooftop. Soft running footsteps, and then suddenly he’s there, a man dressed in red, like the devil himself, Daredevil to be more exact. The guardian of Hell’s Kitchen cannot see, at least not like you or we can, but that does not stop him from defending the neighborhood he loves and fighting for justice in a world full of gods and super soldiers. With the hit Netflix Marvel series returning this weekend for its second season, we here at The NYRD thought it would be a good time to blindly dive into the science of Daredevil and the differently-abled -pun intended.

The Man Without Fear (or Sight)
The accident that left Matt Murdock blind also gave him heightened senses, but Daredevil is not alone in this phenomena and most blind people don’t need chemical waste to sharpen their other senses. It comes down to simple brain chemistry. Our brains are magnificent pieces of equipment that adapt and change to help us survive. It is not so much that blind people learn to use their other senses better, but that the brain actually rewires itself to compensate for the loss. This is called cross-modal neuroplasticity, but that’s just a fancy way of saying that your brain finds ways to use your other senses  more efficiently. In some ways it is similar to the condition known as synesthesia, which is when the input from one sense triggers another sense automatically, such as how some people can hear a color, or taste a sound.

Tests conducted in Canada found that blindfolded individuals could identify more layers of harmonicity in music notes than their non-blindfolded counterparts, even only after a few minutes without vision. Another study recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, gives functional MRI evidence that people who are born deaf still use the parts of their brain that normally process sounds, called Heschl’s gyrus. Instead of processing sound, however, they use those areas to instead process other stimuli like taste or touch, almost literally hearing the world through another sense. Blind people like Daredevil also experience the world differently. Their visual cortex is still active only it becomes used to process information from things like sound and even smells. . All of this amounts to what many might a real-life superpower, but don’t crack open the mask and devil horns just yet.

Unfortunately -and despite the incredible capabilities of the human brain- there are limits to our brain plasticity. Being born deaf or blind, or becoming differently-abled at an early age -like Matt Murdock- gives a person their best chance of adapting to the condition. Brains are more pliable in youth, especially during particularly sensitive periods of development, like language acquisition. However, adults have a harder time adapting. Certain pathways have already been formed and experiences have already been learned. The truth is that neuroplasticity only goes so far, and the enhanced senses of Daredevil are still well beyond the capability of any human brain. His “sight” is very much an invention of comic books, but that does not mean that many real-life differently-abled individuals are not extraordinary in their own ways.

Blind as a Batfleck
Daniel Kish, has been blind since he was a baby, but that has not stopped him from doing things like hiking and even riding a bike. If we are looking for a real-world equivilant of Daredevil than Daniel might fit the bill. Through a technique of clicking his tongue, Daniel is able to use a process of echolocation that is similair to that of a bat. This kind of power was portrayed poorly by Ben Affleck in the 2004 flop, Daredevil, where Murdock is able to bang objects or use the rain to “see” the world around him. Daniel, however, does not throw pots at the wall every time he needs to find a doorway.

There are two types of echolocation, active and passive, and even sighted people employ its use in their day to day lives. Hearing footsteps growing louder, or sensing that there is a wall in front of you in a darkened room can all be forms of passive echolocation. The human brain is wired to interpret sound vibrations spatially. It is part of the reason why we have two ears placed on different sides of our head. Our brains naturally take in the sound around us, and then use the information from each ear to determine certain factors, like location, proximity and even size of the object we are hearing. In other words, if a car is coming at us on our left side, our left ear will hear it at a slightly louder volume than our right ear. Due to the Doppler effect, the car will sound progressively higher-pitched as it approaches and then lower-pitched as it travels further away from the observer. The brain then uses all that information to place the object in our mental landscape. People like Daniel Kish and Matt Murdock use this technique, except they don’t always wait for the world to give them a passive sound to do so. Instead, they make their own.

Human echolocation has been formally studied since at least the 1950s, and those that employ it have the ability to detect objects in their environment by sensing the echoes which bounce back to them, often by tapping a cane or making clicking noises with their mouths, as is the case with Daniel Kish. Differently-abled people with this ability have likely rewired their brains to actually interpret sound waves reflected by nearby objects, allowing them to orient themselves in a world they cannot see through typical human means. It has been inferred, and even outright stated, over the years that Daredevil “sees” very similiar to this technique, whether it be the sonar of Ben Affleck or the “world on fire” explanation that we get in the new Netflix series.

The Kingpin of Perception
A lot of this comes down to our own personal perceptions of the world. As sighted humans we put a lot of emphasis on out ability to see, sometimes at the determent of our other senses. “Seeing is believe,” “eye witness,” and “stop looking while I use the urinal,” are all common sayings that we hear daily at The NYRD office. When we think about the world we often do it through visual terms, even memories are often “visualized” in our minds as pictures or moving images, but human sight is remarkably limited. Only a miniscule fraction of light waves are perceptible to our eyes. For instance, snakes are capable of seeing infrared spectrum light, and many game animals can see ultraviolet light. Going beyond sight, there are many creatures that experience the world -or even more of it- than your average human.

A dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than our own, but their eyesight is weaker. They are animals that experience the world through their nostrils, and in many cases often more sharply than us and our eyes. According to James Walker, former director of the Sensory Research Institute at Florida State University, “If you make the analogy to vision, what you and I can see at a third of a mile, a dog could see more than 3,000 miles away and still see as well. As humans we like to prioritize our own experiences over the experiences of others -which also explains politics. We tend to extrapolate that the way we “perceive” the world is the universal way -that it is the “normal” way- to experience the world around us. Yet, that is so far from the truth it is almost laughable. Human eyesight isn’t even that great, just ask anyone who has to wear glasses. We can’t see into extreme spectrums of light, and there are literally colors that exist that we have never seen and will never see.

This brings us back to Daredevil. We often call what he experiences a superpower, but the truth is that it is just another way to experience the world. His perception of reality may not be the same as Daniel Kish’s or even yours, but it is no less or more limiting. In fact, Matt Murdock’s true superpower is not so much his ability to “see” differently, but his dedication to not allowing his lost visual sense to get him down. Instead, of giving up he trained himself to peak human condition through perseverance and crazy martial arts.

As superheroes in the Marvel Universe go, he is not a thunder god, or a raging green hulk monster. He does not get his powers from a robotic suit or a super soldier serum. His superpower only lets him see the world around him differently. Daredevil is a hero because he dedicates himself to being one. He didn’t give up, even when the world told him that he was different or “broken,” and in our opinion, there is no better analogy for what it truly means to live as a differently-abled person.


We would like to thank our expert consultant, Dr. Douglas Smith, MD, for his help on writing this article.

For the American people it seems like the grass is always seems greener on the other side. And the grass in question happens to be sitting behind a wrought-iron fence guarded by the secret service on the front lawn of the White House. As Americans we have a very unique relationship with our leader, the President of the United States -POTUS to his friends- as he is both our boss and our employee. We have had good Presidents, strong Presidents, war heroes, statesmen, peanuts farmers and actors, but it may be our fictional Presidents that say the most about us as a people and a nation. With House of Cards returning to Netflix this week, we thought this would be a good time to take a closer look at our fictional leaders like President Underwood or his West Wing counterpart, President Bartlet, and do some Presidential comparisons, both fact and fiction.

A Proportional Response
Let’s start with President Josiah Edward Bartlet. His fictional term lasted from 1999 to 2006. He is a economics professor from New Hampshire, who won the Nobel Price for his work in that field. He is also a former Governor of New Hampshire and a direct descendant of Josiah Bartlett, who signed the Declaration of Independence. By all accounts he is a New England academic from a very old family, and also a liberal Democrat who believes in gays in the military, campaign finance reform, and education. He is a bit long winded in a folksy way, but above all he is shown as being the best of us. Sure he lied about having Multiple Sclerosis and was embroiled in his fair share of Washington scandals, but it was never anything serious and when all was said and done he always took responsibility for his actions. He was shrewd, intelligent, compassionate, and warm. His legacy was defined by compromise and doing what was right. He stood by his friends, his family, and his staff, even when it wasn’t always politically savvy to do so.

His real-world counterpart was President George W. Bush, from 2000 to 2008, a Republican. Perhaps one of the only things he shared with his fictional counterpart was a sense of idealism and the fact that they were both Governors. Other than that, Bush was known for his war policies, his persona as a cowboy, and his inability to speak words. Under his administration the country saw the Patriot Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Now, we are not trying to paint Bush as a bad President, but we do want to show that he is a sharp contrast to the persona of President Jed Bartlet, who continually enjoyed a higher approval rating than the sitting President.

BartBush

Though one can argue that President Bartlett existed before President Bush, there is no denying that the fictional POTUS is -in at least some way- a response to his more conservative and inarticulate real-world counterpart. Continuously throughout the Bush Presidency, a time when the President of the United States enjoyed some of the highest and then lowest approval ratings in history, it was Bartlet whom people turned to every week for solace and hope. His liberal policies were ahead of their time, and though he was sometimes accused of being overly sentimental the show often tackled national issues in thoughtful and heartfelt ways. By all accounts it often seemed as if Bartlet was the President people were looking for. Yet, it was Bush they voted for in 2000 and again in the 2004.

Chapter 2
Next let’s look at President Francis Joseph Underwood, whose Presidency started only in season 3, but has been with the American public since 2013. His public persona is one of a judicious and fair-minded liberal. He ended a naval standoff with China, and started an ambitious domestic job program. However under this congenial appearance lies a different person. In reality, Underwood is a conniving, Machiavellian, and sometimes over-the-top evil character. He uses any means he can to rise to power, and has cheated on his wife, blackmailed, and manipulated the events around him to get to the White House. He is from a family that dates back to prominence during the 1800’s. Unlike Bartlet his public persona is completely different than his inner thoughts and private actions. A Southern Democrat and lawyer, he was the Majority Whip, then the Vice President before scheming his way into the Oval Office. President Underwood has no sense of tradition, decorum, or even a caring for the rules of fair play, and it is a role he almost revels in.

The real President since 2008 and during the run time of House of Cards is President Barrack Obama. He is from Chicago by way of Hawaii, and unlike the other three Presidents talked about already, has no famous ancestors or famous American name. Obama has passed laws for universal healthcare, repealed “Don’t Ask Don’t tell,” and is working on gun reform and climate change. He has partially helped to end some of our wars in the Middle East, and has had an overall positive effect on the American image overseas. Say what you will about the current President of the United States, but he is not Frank Underwood. Though, there has been some questionable tactics used under the Obama Administration in the area of drone attacks, it is hard to see our even tempered Commander-in-Chief embroiled in plots of power, sex, and murder.

UnderObama

Thus, we must wonder, that if Bartlet is a response to Bush, then is Underwood a response to -or even a condemnation of- Obama? Our current President is mild mannered and has been embroiled in very little and minor Washington scandals. Underwood, on the other hand, is fierce and has no qualms about things like corruption or adultery. The real POTUS rose to power on the tide of a national movement, while the fictional one gained his power by discrediting his predecessor and taking over his position. Many perceive President Obama as weak and lacking of a plan or the conviction to make America strong. President Underwood is anything but weak, and he always seems to have a plan. Unlike Bartlett and Bush, these two men are not from different parties and even have similiar liberal agendas. Also, Underwood like Obama shows a very politically attractive face to the American public, much like our current President. Instead, the House of Cards President differs more in his personal tactics and hunger for power. It can be argued that this match-up may say something -at least in part- about what some secretly suspect about our POTUS. Obama is sometimes too perfect, too congenial or too well behaved. Yet, we highly doubt our leader is playing from the Underwood playbook, so it is more likely House of Cards is just another form of Presidential wish-fulfillment. Still, the popularity of the Netflix show makes us wonder if we, the American people, tend to feel an attraction to fictional Presidents that embody everything our real-world Presidents do not.

Living in their Shoes
We can attribute some of the popularity for fictional Presidents to the fact that viewers get to live their triumphs and tragedies. We get to know our fictional leaders in ways we will never get to know our real ones. We can sit in on meetings with Jed Bartlet and see him struggle with decisions. We can follow the scheming of Frank Underwood and quietly cheer for his successes, even when we know it’s wrong. The very format of television is designed to put the audience on the side of the main character. When we look at our real-life Presidents we only get the snapshot, the man behind the podium, or the polished and cleaned-up sterile image of the leader of our country. We don’t get to see him joking with his staff, suffering from marital issues, or filing his tax returns. So in a way, our factual POTUS becomes less real -just a prop we see on our TV- when compared to the fictionalized and idealized President, especially by comparison.

What is more interesting is that The West Wing and House of Cards -though diametrically different from one another- offer a look into the evolution of how the viewing and voting public have thought of our elected officials over the years. To go from Josiah Bartlet to Frank Underwood is as much a change in what Americans look for in an elected official as it was to go from George Bush to Barrack Obama. The West Wing portrays the entire political process as one filled with smart and caring people who are doing their best to make the world better. Even Republicans are often portrayed as articulate and intelligent, except with differing views. House of Cards, on the other hand, goes out of its way to be a theatrical and ruthless look at modern American politics and governance. Each is a fictionalized version of the truth -we hope- yet each equally holds the attention and imagination of America. Perhaps these fictional Presidents and their shows are so popular because they give us an ideal we feel we don’t have or that we’ve lost in real life. Thus, each still holds enough truth to be believable and worthwhile, regardless of your political persuasion.

So, maybe this all really comes down to human nature, and our natural yearning for wanting what he don’t have. We, as the American public, are like a soccer mom dreaming about the pool boy, yet knowing all along that our dreams are nothing but fiction. We seem to lean toward a TV President that is the opposite of the current sitting POTUS, because we do that with everything else in our lives. We accept the factual while romanticizing the path not chosen. We use fiction all the time to ask the question, “What if?” and to condemn those in power who do not meet are sometimes exacting standards. Really, all this means is that if Donald Trump is elected, then after 2016 we may find ourselves with the most sane, humble, caring, and brilliant fictional President ever to be portrayed on television.

Yes, you read the title of this article right. Nickelodeon, as part of its upcoming slate has announced a movie. The premise of the live-action Legends of the Hidden Temple is supposedly inspired by the mid-1990’s TV show that many Millennials will no doubt remember. Mostly, because we were all screaming at the TV at the kid who could never assemble that damn monkey statue correctly. “No, that’s the head. That’s obviously the head!”

This movie comes as part of an unveiling for a slew of new programing for the network, including a two-part TV movie based on Hey Arnold, as well as other projects such as “happy reality” TV programs, like All In, which is a documentary series led by Cam Newton, because the winners get to go to Disney and apparently the losers have to settle for Nickelodeon.

Reportedly the Legends of the Hidden Temple movie is part of a scheme by Nickelodeon and other Viacom properties to try and refresh viewership on their networks. Even powerhouse cable channels like MTV and Comedy Central have seen their numbers drop in recent years, mostly due to the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Nickelodeon’s main ad revenue and subscriber base has shrunk in both 2015 and 2016. By bringing back properties with heavy Millennial nostalgia attached the kids-channel is obviously trying to recapture some of its old viewers and spark the imagination of new ones.

As for the planned movie itself, no details have yet to be released on the Legends of the Hidden Temple movie. We do not know who will star, what the script will consist of, or if there will be a scene where that damn kid still can’t assemble the Shrine of the Silver Monkey. “C’mon, it’s only like three pieces!”


Photo courtesy: http://www.hitfix.com/the-dartboard/90s-kids-unite-someone-once-barfed-on-legends-of-the-hidden-temple

It is that time of the year again, actually it is that time of the “every four years” again. Because this year is a leap year, a year when everybody wakes up on March 1st only to remember that it is actually February 29th. So why is this a thing? Well the story of our calendar is one of intrigue and murder… Okay, maybe not murder, but there were Romans involved so we’re thinking at least one killing and probably a few orgies, but that’s not what we want to talk about today. Instead, let’s take a closer look at this thing we call a leap year. So step with us into the Quantum Leap Accelerator and vanish… Oh boy.

Leap Back
For almost the entirety of human history, we humans have been obsessed with keeping track of the year. To understand this obsession we need to leap back, and unlike Dr. Samuel Beckett, we need to go a little farther back than any one of our single lifetimes, or even that of our parents or great grandparents. Our leap takes us back to the dawn of human history when our ancestors needed to keep track of the seasons in order to survive. Winter meant cold, Summer meant hot, and Spring meant it was time for… well you know. As early as 9000 BCE, humans were using notches on wood and bones to keep track of lunar phases in order to correctly count out the year. It became even more important to keep track of these things when we moved from a hunter gatherer species to an agrarian one. We needed way to know when to plant and when to harvest, and that is when things got trickier.

Keeping track of the seasons by how many full moons you see is fine, but imprecise. Even the concept of a “day” is hard to measure as the amount of sunlight and darkness vary from place to place and day to day. It took ancient humans awhile to figure out that you need to calculate the length of a day from high noon to high noon. That is why ancient calendars often varied from region to region. As you might imagine winters are a lot longer in Siberia than they are in Greece. So what does all this have to do with a leap year? Well, according to Ziggy, the ancient Egyptians were among the first to calculate the 365-day length of a year, and among the first to realize that we needed a leap year in order to keep us on track.

You see the solar year or tropical year is actually 365.2422 days long. As you can imagine it can be hard to account for that extra -almost- a quarter of a day. Some ancient societies like ancient Rome and China originally adapted lunar calendars, which meant that each month was 29.5 days long, but that meant the full year came up 11 days short. Other civilizations, like the Sumerians just divided their calendar into 12 months of 30 days and were done with it. That was problematic too, because if you are good at math you might notice that only amounts to 360 days and even Al can tell you that is about a week short. Now, our ancestors were aware of this and some civilizations often declared week-long holiday festivals or other extra-calendar activities to try and keep the year on track, but it was sometimes messy, and we’re not talking about the feasts themselves.

Leaping on a String
By the time Julius Caesar came to power Rome’s calendar was off by about 4 months. September was in summer, February was in the fall, and so the Romans found themselves leaping from year to year, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that their next year would be the leap home… or something like that. Thankfully, Caesar was walking like an Egyptian with Cleopatra and observed their 365-day long calendar, and realized its potential to fix Rome’s own quantum-related problems. First, he had to fix the time lag, so in 46 BCE he decreed the Year of Confusion, a 445-day long year meant to get the Roman calendar back on track. He then changed the calendar to a 365-day calendar -conveniently giving himself a month in the process- and every four years he declared it to be a leap year to account for that discrepancy of almost a quarter of the day.

Now we say “almost,” because if you remember it is only .2422 of a full day. So adding a full day ever 4 years actually adds too much time onto the calendar. That’s why 128 years later, the Romans and everyone else who were living by the Julian Calendar found themselves off the solar calendar by an extra day’s worth of time. Leaping forward to the 16th century this discrepancy had caused important Christian holidays to slide forward by ten days or so, and Pope Gregory XIII decided he wasn’t going to be having anymore of that. So in 1582 he unveiled his Gregorian Calendar. First he cut the month of October short by 10 days, to fix the immediate problem, because screw October. Then the Pope decreed that every 100 years would not be a leap year. So there was no leap year on the years of 1700, 1800, 1900, but we did have one in 2000. Here is where it gets complicated, because 100 year intervals that are divisible by 400 -we are not kidding- do not skip their leap year. If you think that fixed the problem completely, then hold onto your Pope hat because we need to leap again.

This time we are leaping to the future. The Gregorian Calendar isn’t perfect. Factor in that the Earth’s rotation is actually slowing down, which is part of the reason why we arbitrarily add leap seconds to the clock, and you get a system of telling time is only ever going to be “good enough.” In the future, our ancestors may choose to change the calendar and the leap year tradition, because in about 10,000 year the remaining discrepancies will start to show through again, but who knows. Maybe by that time we will need to find a new solar calendar that accounts for the orbits and rotations of many worlds and moon colonies, or we may all be dead. For now the Gregorian Calendar is the best we have. After all, the calendar year is merely a human construct meant to try and keep track of something that does not work by our clocks or calendars, and yet that fact has not stopped people from letting their imaginations run wild with the possibilities of the leap year.

The Leap Home
There is a lot superstition and frustrations that surround a leap year. For instance, being born on February 29th in a leap year is confusing. You either celebrate your birthday every four years or you have to do it on a calendar date that isn’t your actual date of birth, and other traditions have taken the day further. February 29th is sometimes associated with the day that women propose marriage to men, because for most of history women taking charge was crazy talk. Other people believed that the leap year ruins the natural cycle of things and such superstitions arose as the Scottish saying, “Leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” Greeks thought that making contracts or getting married on a leap year doomed the union to failure, which may explain some of their current relationship problems with the rest of Europe. Some notable things about February 29th is that Superman was fictionally born on that day, and Hatti McDaniel famously accepted the first Oscar awarded to an African American. Also, in 1504 Christopher Columbus used a lunar eclipse on February 29th to scare a population of local natives into giving his men supplies and food. So, you know, its a mixed bag sort of day.

However, there is possibly no other day that lives in so much infamy and awe in our collective imaginations. A leap year is not something we see everyday, but regardless of our superstitions or superhero birthdays, we need February 29th. Without a leap year we would still all be trapped in the past facing mirror images of our seasons that are not our own. We have come a long way in our calendar and who knows what the future holds. We may never be fully rid of our own little quantum leap.

First we see a teaser, a normal man or woman, maybe Russian, maybe not, who has their day interrupted by something otherworldly or downright weird. Maybe someone has a bizarre or monstrous encounter. Maybe there are bright lights in the sky or men in trench coats smoking menacing cigarettes. Jump scare, then someone is dead. Fade to black, and that iconic music starts. It is simple yet spooky, single synthesizer notes with a whistling accompaniment. Even now you can probably hear it in your head. Another episode of The X Files has begun, but you need to ask yourself: Are you simply watching just another TV show or modern mythology?… The truth is out there.

The Unidentified Trojan Object
The X Files was rated #81 on IMDB’s Top 250 TV Shows of all time. It won 93 Golden Globes with 202 nominations, including 3 Best TV Drama awards, and there is a reason for the show’s success… And we’re not saying its aliens, butThe X Files touched a nerve in the American public, some unforeseen and unknown element of our baser instincts and suspicions. It may have started the idea of the modern episodic story-arc that now dominates network and cable dramas, but there is more to it than good writing. The X Files is a modern myth, like the classics of Homer. It gives us a picture of a world both familiar and unfamiliar, like one only glimpsed in our dreams or our nightmares.

The X Files could only have arisen and existed in the 1990’s, and we’re not just talking about the plot conveniences of giant cellphones and lack of Google. The cold war was over and America was beginning to feel uncomfortable as the sole superpower of the world. As humans, but especially as Americans, we naturally tend to distrust the powerful, and with no more enemy to fear abroad we turned some of that distrust inward. Couple that with a country where slightly more than half of the population believes in extraterrestrial beings, add in every trope and cliche about abductions, folklore, and government cover-ups and you had a hit 1992 TV series. Yet, the appeal of The X Files was about more than just capitalizing on a mindset of the American people. It both participated and drove the conversation of conspiracy and aliens, just like any good mythological story.

Classical Greek and Roman myths have some very distinctive storytelling elements that are often mimicked in the show, which star the two will-they-won’t-they FBI agents. Classical mythology deals in the affairs of gods and kings, as Greeks were not concerned with the affairs of the common man. Among some of the major elements of classical myth are ideas about evil, responsibility, family, and inter-generational conflicts, but always a desire to explain the way the world works. Myth is meant to teach stories about the origins of the known and unknown, something The X Files attempts to do in every episode, whether it be the Jersey Devil or the Kennedy Assassination. It is the attempt to bring order and explanation to a disordered world. Mythology does this by relying on gods, monsters, magic, and prophecy, and though words like magic and prophecy do not appear very often in The X Files, the premise still remains the same. The supernatural and pseudo-science are used to fill the gaps of our modern mysteries and misunderstandings. Ancient audiences did not always believe their myths verbatim, but they realized that those stories were telling truths about their world and the influences that affected their lives. That is not too far off from how many viewed the adventures of Mulder and Scully, a fiction with a deeper truth.

Smoking Man and the Argonauts
To really understand the correlation between ancient mythology and The X Files, we need to look at it as the people of ancient Greece did, or as the people of the ancient 1990’s did. The world is run by gods and powerful men. There is no such thing as coincidence, because we are all being moved on some greater chess board by some greater hand. For the Greeks -and to a lesser extent the Romans- that meant gods. For Mulder and Scully that meant people like The Smoking Man and the Syndicate, the unforeseen forces that control the world. Even the American government is just a pawn in their greater schemes. Above them are the alien colonists whose bidding they secretly carry out and fight to supplant.

To the 1990’s American this idea was the same concept as a pantheon of powerful gods, not the aliens, but the humans that ran everything from the banks to the Presidency. They had unlimited power to cover-up, kill, or do almost anything that fit their agenda, and they were far from perfect. One of the major factors in mythology is that the gods have human traits and human flaws. They squabble and disagree, often causing chaos for the humans below them. The same is true for the Syndicate, this shadow government. It is often shown that the members do no agree, and rival factions takes matters into their own hands. These are not simple arguments, but conflicts that end with assassinations, kidnappings, and alien-human hybrids. Meanwhile this pantheon of shirt-and-tie-divinities sit above it all, often untouched by the chaos they create.

Sometimes the gods choose to visit the realm of mortal men and lend them aid. Deep Throat, in the first season of The X Files was one such supernatural helper. He often gave information and assistance to Mulder in his search for the truth, even as a member of the Syndicate. He paid the price for his help when he was killed. The Smoking Man is probably the most common of the gods to walk among men, often standing in the background like Hades or Ares, a lit cigarette glowing in the shadows. Others occasionally pay our favorite FBI agents a visit, but only when it suits their personal agendas and needs, much like the gods of old backing ancient heroes to further their own plans. In fact, it is often this tension of the hero’s will versus the gods’ machinations that create the central conflict of The X Files, and ancient mythology.

Oedipus Fox
Fox Mulder is the epitome of an ancient Greek hero. As a prominent and Oxford educated FBI profiler he is not an every-man. Like the Greek stories The X Files are not about common people, but about two highly trained and prestigious government agents. In ancient Greece, in order to be considered a hero you had to be of noble or godly birth. Mulder’s father was a member of the Syndicate, which in essence makes our hero half-god. There is even later hints that the Smoking Man may be Mulder’s true father, but regardless who his father is, the father/son conflict drives The X Files‘ plot and greater mythos, just as it did in ancient times.

To be a true hero one also had to perform extraordinary feats or trials. Mulder proves himself week after week in a various series of trials. Specifically, we are referring to the “Monster of the Week” episodes where our two FBI agents must uncover the truth or defeat a literal monster of the week, whether they be flukemen, inbred brothers, or the Loch Ness monster. Like Hercules defeating the hydra or Perseus slaying Medusa, every hero faces trials and challenges, and like those ancient heroes Mulder always seems to triumph against the odds.

A hero of ancient myth is more than just a good person, they often possess a superhuman-ness except for one fatal flaw. Achilles is the most famous, with his invulnerable skin, except for his heel. Mulder is like this, but we would relate him more to Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy. She was gifted with the ability of prophecy but cursed with the fact that no one ever believed her. Mulder’s true strength lies in his belief, his faith. Scully puts it best when she says, “You’re in the basement because they’re afraid of you, of your relentlessness, and because they know that they could drop you in the middle of the desert and tell you the truth is out there, and you’d ask them for a shovel.” Yet, that is also his flaw because it makes him sound crazy, even to his partner. Mulder’s tenacity is almost superhuman, but it sometimes causes to him leap before he looks or talk-out regardless of how loony he sounds. Like Achilles, it a strength and weakness born from a significant childhood event.

Another interesting characterization of a Greek mythological hero is an ignoble death. Jason, of Jason and the Argonauts fame, dies when a beam from the Argo falls on him. Mulder is presumed dead a few times throughout the series, and at one point might have actually been dead -it get’s weirder in later seasons. Of course, he does not actually die. However and more interestingly, Peter Boyle, who plays a psychic that can foresee  people’s deaths does mutter something about autoerotic asphyxiation to Mulder, so an ignoble death is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Dana Scully, though noble in her own way, does not fit the bill of a Greek hero. Instead, she fills the role of the deuteragonist, the second most important character. Many mythological heroes had deuteragonists, Hercules had Iolus, Achilles had Patroclus, and -though this is not a Greek myth- Gilgamesh had Enkidu. In each of these examples, the deuteragonst is one of the most important people in the antagonist’s life. Achilles goes crazy after Patroclus is killed at Troy, in the same way that Mulder goes crazy after Scully is abducted. However, a deuteragonist is more than just a sidekick or second-banana. They also serve as a foil for the hero, highlighting aspects that the hero is lacking, such as how Scully’s logic and science often compliment Mulder’s intuition and paranoia. The irony is that even when Mulder is right, Scully still looks like the smart one.

Odds and Odysseus
Odysseus offers perhaps the greatest classical correlation to Fox Mulder. Both are men caught in the whims and games of the gods, and both choose to oppose them. Odysseus defies Poseidon just as Mulder defies the will of the Syndicate and the Smoking Man. Each is a hero who wins through their intelligence and force of will, and each is driven by their obsession to return home. For the main character of The Odyssey home is a real and familiar place with loved ones. For Mulder that means reuniting with his sister, Samantha. It is a place that no longer exists and stopped existing the minute his she was abducted. Over the years his family crumbles and dies, and Mulder is left to fight for the ideal of his lost home and family, and the truth behind why they were taken from him.

In the Season 1 finale, The Erlenmeyer Flask, Mulder discovers crucial information at 1616 Pandora. With that season finale both Mulder and The X Files opened a literal Pandora’s Box, launching the shows overarching mythology. There have also been plenty of other references to Greek myth throughout the show, but more telling is the fact that we call the show’s main story its “mythology.” The word itself has become ingrained with the show, and for good reason. The correlations between Ancient Greece and 1990’s America may be few, but the similarities of the mythologies that define each time period are striking.

Perhaps the comparison is not always perfect, but every myth embodies the time in in which it was created and The X Files is no different. It speaks to something greater within us, what we believe, what we think, and what we feel. It captures a time and a national mood that existed in an era of woman’s shoulder pads and a Clinton Presidency. Like any good myth it touches on truth and fantasy and makes us all say, “We want to believe.”

Long ago, our ancestors gazed up to the stars to find the meaning and guidance that was hidden in the sparkly goodness of the zodiac. For in those celestial shapes they found wisdom and stories of great heroes and deeds. We are no different than our stargazing forefathers, as we too tell stories of heroes and sepia toned supermen, and those stars still hold many truths for us, as well, which are just waiting to be discovered.

Much like the standard zodiac the signs of the nerd zodiac or Nerdiac can give us great insights into our day to day living as well as the many talents and special qualities we posses as both people and geeks. Many ancient nerds believed that you could discover a great deal of relevant information about yourself through reading about your Nerdiac sign. So we at The NYRD invite you to find your sign and your destiny.

Archaeologist
March 21 to April 19
AcherologistThe Archaeologist is a desert sign and those born under it are regarded as adventurous, active, and outgoing. It won’t matter where you go or how remote or unusual it is. From the Outback to the Antarctic, you can be sure that an Archaeologist has been there before you. Although they are independent, outgoing and assertive they are also surprisingly trusting, and at times will innocently walk into a temple of doom with no thought for their own safety. They love to discover new things, and very much believe these things should be shared with the world, because sometimes it really does belong in a museum. Yet, no matter what upheaval, challenge, or triumph that confronts them, Archaeologists have a wonderful ability to find their way through. Their faith in life and the future remains untouched by hardship, and their gift is such that with every new discovery the world is still a magical place (and there are sometimes aliens, but we try not to think about that one.)

The Archaeologist is considered the most masculine sign of the nerd zodiac, with females born under the sign sometimes called Crofts and men sometimes called Jones. In romance, Archaeologists are forceful, dynamic, and aggressive, and can often intimidate potential partners. For true happiness a person born under the Archaeologist sign needs a partner that balances their component traits (their true mirror reflection side). This balance can often be referred to as The O’Connells. Archaeologists are doers rather than talkers. They are the impulsive. They act first and doubt later. Their ability to live life close to the edge provides them with a wealth of real experience to call upon. Being active people Archaeologists cannot adapt to any kind of restriction, particularly possessive relationships. They often travel to escape any feelings of being stuck or possessed, even have been know to jump out of their own office windows on occasion.

Vulcan
April 20 to May 20
VulcanUnderneath their cool, calm, and logical exterior, Vulcans differ greatly from all the other signs of the nerd zodiac. Often times they will let others get close, but only so close as they want them. Some claim that trying to connect with a Vulcan on an emotional level is similar to trying to break through a Tholian Web, but that is not true at all. There is no such thing as an open-book Vulcan, but their feelings, fears, and desires often run far deeper than anyone around them would guess. In some ways, of all the souls you may encounter a Vulcan’s will be the most human. Their true spirit often remains hidden behind a veneer of day-to-day activities, which is why those born under the Vulcan sign can sometimes be perceived as withdrawn, boring, or even cold. In terms of the future, Vulcans hate the unknown and often strive to create tomorrow in advance, rather than leave it to fate. They do not normally seek adventure or the unknown, instead preferring a life where they can live long and prosper in other realms.

In love, they are regarded as extremely sensual beings, but ones which only mate on an average of once every seven years. For most people, a relationship with a Vulcan will be defined by intellectual pursuits and based in cold hard reality, but when a Vulcan mates, they mate for life. It is the rare and lucky person, (friend or lover) for which a Vulcan will reveal his true inner self, because he or she has and always shall be your friend.

Timelord
May 21 to June 20
TimelordThose born under the sign of Timelord are always on the move; thirsty for knowledge and new experiences. Terminally curious and sometimes even mischievous, Timelords are multi-faceted souls who enjoy knowing a little bit of everything. Those born under the sign of Timelord have also gained the reputation of being the incessant talkers, and have a special interest in anything foreign or unique in the universe. Their comfort zone has almost no boundaries, and as such when things often look their worse a Timelord will be in their prime. In love, they look for a companion who can keep up with them mentally and physically. Among the many signs of the nerd zodiac, they are the sign that is often discussed, dissected, and sometimes even put down most by the other Nerdiac signs. This is sometimes a subtle form of jealousy by others, because Timelords lead very unique and unusual lives. Those born under this sign are lovers of adventure and game playing that involves out-thinking other people.

Their personality usually appears mysterious or detached to others and therefore they are often misunderstood and unappreciated for the talents they offer to the world at large, but this does not mean they do not feel, for in fact they have two hearts. Most members of this sign simply hide their feelings behind their jovial and verbose natures. It is rare and often scary when a Timelord chooses to reveal any hurt, pain, or sacrifice they bear. That is called going a little Capaldi. It is has been said, that even demons run when a Timelord goes to war.

River
June 21 to July 22
RiverThose born under the sign of River, are one of the Nerdiac’s enigmas. It is fair to say that most are a bundle of contradictions and mysteries. One moment, a River can seem like a child, scared and alone, the next that same person can be capable of slaying a hundred Reavers. They invoke strong family ties, especially those between siblings. Those born under this sign are also incredibly intuitive to the point of being psychic. They can be compassionate and caring with friends and family, yet find a weakness that will cut you to your bone. The mood of a River is ever changing, making them endearingly eccentric and insecure. They are often described as an albatross, both lucky and unlucky depending on how they are handled. Rivers go through many phases of experience. Life doesn’t stand still for this sign of the nerd zodiac, and even if they remain in one place or on one ship, they live as much in their internal ocean of emotions as they do among reality.

They flow both up and down, like a leaf on the wind. Most Rivers feel one way one minute, then sometimes totally different the next. With their changeable natures Rivers are fascinating, mysterious, stimulating, and extremely alluring. This sign is one of the most alluring of all and once their touch has reached you, they can be the most beguiling partners and co-pilots you can hope to find out there in the black.

Kingslayer
July 23 to August 22
KingslayerKingslayers are said to be born fortunate. Charismatic and ambitious, they attract not only an abundance of friends and opportunities, but manage to survive life’s stormy times with style and good humor. Once a Kinglsayer is committed to a relationship, no matter how incestuous it may be, they are totally devoted and faithful. Any born under this nerdy zodiac sign are often considered honorable, though others may find their honor to be a twisted sort of one. Much like their namesake who slew the mad king, Kingslayers will often taken measures that may seem extreme, but are entirely justifiable to themselves. In love, should their heart or trust be broken they will never forgive or forget. When a relationship breaks down -even a long standing one- they can disappear into the South without a backwards look. For a Kingslayer, when a relationship is over, really over, it is over for good. They will move on, sometimes finding solace in new and larger companions.

Above all Kingslayers are trendsetters, leaders, and adventurers. Their weakness is their pride, and sometimes their golden hand. Some sayings associated with those born under the Kingslayer are, “flattery will get you everything,” and a “Kingslayer always repays his debts,” in coin as well as in blood.

Samwise
August 23 to September 22
SamwiseSamwise are often put down by many and perceived as being soft and provincial. But when this sign of the nerd zodiac shines, there is practically no stopping their inner light. When a person born under the Samwise sign is confident within themselves they are the most successful, structured, and creative of all the Nerdiac signs. Many Samwise can be found working in the service to others, such as teachers, gardeners, and fellowship companions. One of the most magical characteristics of the Samewise is no matter how many times life turns sour on them, they still manage to maintain faith in others, refusing to become cynical. There is an genuineness around this sign, a kind-heartedness, which unfortunately is sometimes played upon by others for their advantage. Samwise can often become victims of relationship power-games, where they are mistreated. Creative and sensitive, people born under Samwise are delicate, like rare and special orchids that often require individual treatment to fully blossom into their true unique beauty.

Shy at times, they are content to allow others to take center-stage and often generate their time and energy into making those they love happy or successful. They are givers and when the chips are down and you need someone to help you bear your burden to a mountain of fire, you want a Samwise. With them in your life, you will always have someone who understands and cares, and any romance or friendship based upon these qualities is certain to be mutually rewarding.

Link
September 23 to October 22
LinkIt is the fantasy of every adolescent born under the Link sign to rescue the prince or princess of their dreams. As their lives unfold and the Song of Time is played, the experiences, false starts, dramas, broken heart pieces and disillusionment they encounter while seeking this personal quest, often shapes their futures in the most extraordinary manner. Love and love-lost (especially when lost to evil wizards) makes a big difference to someone born under this sign of the nerd zodiac, although the happy-go-lucky appearance they present -against all kinds of odds- may not reveal this as fact. Links can switch off from the world, as easily as turning off a video game. Many who fall under the sign of Link can be difficult to fathom, but that is because many born under this Nerdiac sign often don’t express the more diverse sides to their personalities. When applied their charm can win jobs and provide powerful friends, whether Zora or Goron.

It is a sad fact that many Links fair far better in both personal and professional ventures if they remain alone, but for those who do find their secret dream and rescue their prince or princess, that is another story. A Link must always remember that when they are looking to fulfill their dreams they should never undermine their own integrity, or anger the chickens. Life for a person born under this sign is a true quest, and if they stick to it long enough, not only will they find their Master Sword, but reach their goals, no matter the adversity.

Skywalker
October 23 to November 21
SkywalkerReputed to be one of the most powerful signs of the nerd zodiac and the Jedi, Skywalkers lead fate-filled lives and have intense and dramatic personal relationships. Even as children on Tatoonie, Skywalkers are often found to be wise beyond their years, and gifted pod-racers. Those born under this sign often know all the answers, but they have difficulty finding what they need to develop their own happiness. Passion, desire, and power go hand in hand for those born under this sign. This often leads to many challenges and temptations, and a Skywalker’s biggest test in life is choosing between the power of love and the love of power. Coming to grips with their extraordinary emotional depths and sensitivity isn’t easy for those around them. They are different from all other Nerdiac signs and this difference has them following a different path to their destiny. Others can often live with a Skywalker partner for years -and for many horribly acted scenes- but not really know them. Their eyes often blaze with feelings that words never express, and beware on the days or nights they hide their feelings behind dark helmets, as there is likely to be a force storm brewing.

When you deal with a Skywalker you have to always deal with them on an intuitive level. They often wear a mask and occasionally a respirator, and too often say no when they really mean yes. Once they find true love they can be the most faithful and dedicated of all partners, but fall out badly with a Skywalker and you are likely to find your windpipe being crushed. They never forgive or forget. Most born under Skywalker are winners. The main thing they have to worry about is their attitudes, which influence their mind powers and can either make or break them for the dark or the lightside. When they are negative about something or someone, or critical of themselves, they can tend to get in their own way, because sometimes the only thing found inside the Cave of the Darkside is what you take with you.

Airbender
November 22 to December 21
AirbenderAirbenders possess a natural exuberance, sense of adventure, and love of life that makes them one of the most optimistic  signs of all. Like their element of choice, those born under this Nerdiac sign tend to blow toward whatever it is they find alluring -a love partner, dream job, vacation, etc- and make it their own. Airbenders believe that anything is possible, and because of this belief system, they are adept at seeking out their own destiny. They are not blown by the winds of change, instead they control them and bend them to their will. Sometimes trying to tie down these free-spirited individuals is frustrating for those around them. Airbenders are happiest on the move, exploring new cultures and ideas and many are attracted to occupations related to travel, outdoor work, begin the avatar, and philosophical pursuits. In love, they often shy away from being fenced in, but once they find a partner who understands their needs to retain their own sense of self and identity, Airbenders can be the most big-hearted, generous and fun-loving companions of all.

Although people born under this nerd zodiac sign are often intellectually and spiritually advanced, they are notorious for their directness, which can sometimes be seen by others as a lack of tact. However, they are freedom loving, optimistic, and honest. Those born under Airbender are ruled by a wisdom all their own, and have an inherent need to develop their own unique philosophy of life.

Ironman
December 22 to January 19
IronmanThe sign of the high roller, Ironman is regarded as the Nerdiac’s top in life and business achievers. Often the most hard-shelled and stubborn of the signs, it can be difficult to get an Ironman to concede on any point, whether it be physically, mentally, or politically, especially when it comes to superhero registration. Those born under this nerd zodiac sign are often never content till they reach the top of whatever endeavor they are involved with. However, with their stubborn nature also comes patience, an iron will, and repulsor cannons. They reach their goals because they know the longest journey commences with a single step and that the first step is always the most difficult. However, the one thing an Ironman must always try to do is balance work with play; otherwise they can become too one-sided, sacrificing one aspect for the other. Ironmen often do rise to the occasion when faced with a new task or deadline, even if it sometimes takes them a while.yet, if things go wrong, their ambition to reach the ultimate keeps them moving forever onward and upwards.

They are also innovators who are willing to think outside the box and try unusual approaches on their road to success in business or in love. Romantically, they desire a permanent relationship with someone who will give them the affection they crave and often neglect to give themselves, but finding that person will be a road of trial and error, even if he or she have been staring them in the face -getting coffee, fetching dry-cleaning, being an under appreciated personal assistant, etc- all along. Although many Ironmen are borderline workaholics, this does not necessarily make them dull or gloomy. They have an offbeat sense of humor, which seems to erupt at the most unexpected moments. Their motivating force in life is success, money, status, authority and, -although many might not admit it- love.

Batman
January 20 to February 18
BatmanThose born under the sign of Batman have a high focus on intellect and perfectionism. Others may view them as eccentric or misunderstood. Many inventors, explorers, and caped crusaders are born under this Nerdiac sign, and with such a high level of focus, Batmen succeed in almost any area they devote themselves to, whether it be physical or mental. This trait is often a boon and a bane, as this level of focus also means that a person born under the Batman sign may have trouble letting go of past hurts and are often haunted by the things about their life they cannot change. Many extremes surround this sign, and these extremes can take them to heaven or hell. In everyday terms, most Batmen are humanitarian in nature and often devote themselves to helping others. They can also be objective in judgement, as they have a unique talent for burying their emotions in an inner cave. Men and women born under this nerd zodiac are happiest when they are useful and they often have a strong sense of right and wrong. However, their single-minded obsessions can sometimes lead to a life of insomnia, as those born under the Batman are the most likely to suffer from sleeplessness.

In romance, the Batman is unlucky. The extremes of their life often lead to quick and shallow relationships, as many partners will not see beyond the mask of the billionaire playboy. Those lovers who are able to pierce the veneer will often be another Batman, -also sometimes called a Catwoman, for a female born under this sign- and the relationship, though deep, will never be smooth.

Snape
February 19 to March 20
SnapeMysterious and alluring individuals, most Snapes are gifted in many ways, but still manage to spend most of their lives battling confusing conditions. Snapes are frequently torn between two pathways in life, often mirroring their own conflicting desires to serve or rule. This can lead to an almost dual life as villain and hero. This nerd zodiac sign is acknowledged as being the Saint and the Sinner rolled into one. Snape is the sign of the lost soul, the philosopher, the psychotic, and the visionary. As a credit to them, and considering their many vulnerable characteristics, those born under this sign are incredibly adaptable and resilient. Many Snapes can be amongst the top wizards of the world, but many can also be found in places such as Azkaban. One thing that plays havoc with the life of a member of this Snape sign is romance. They often replace fantasy for reality and this is especially true when it comes to relationships.

Most born under this Nerdiac are more likely to pine for a person from a distance, unable to act on their feelings and yet equally unable to let them go. This can sometimes result in situations were a person born under the sign of Snape may be forced to help the offspring of a long lost love defeat a dark wizard, despite the conflicting emotions of hate and love they may feel for that child. Snapes are the nerd zodiac’s most sensitive sign, and should take extra special care, as nobody can beat them up as much as they can beat themselves up -with maybe with the exception of those kids from Gryffindor.

2016

It is 2016, a shiny new year in the 21st century. There is no denying that we are in the future, a time when our sock hopping ancestors believed we would have things like jet packs and underwater cities. Instead all we have are underwater pollution and -criminally mislabeled- “hoverboards.” Still, our modern era is not all bad, and we here at The NYRD are optimistic about what is yet to come. 2016 holds a lot of promise and we thought it would be best to start the year off right and talk about all the good possibilities, trends, and breakthroughs for the coming year, because we all know there will inevitably be bad enough ones too.

Virtually All Reality
2016 will mark the beginning of consumer virtual reality. VR headsets are set to become the next big “thing” in the technology and gaming world. This year will see the release of the Oculus Rift as well as several other devices. These new VR sets will range from premium high end models to cardboard boxes that can be fit around your smart phone, but rest assured our reality will never look the same again. Whether it will be playing games, watching movies, or even experiencing news stories first hand, the world is going to start to look  a lot different in ways even we cannot imagine.

Franchise, Franchise, Franchise
We would be remiss if we did not use this opportunity to bring up some of the most anticipated video games, movies, and TV shows coming out in 2016. This new year will most assuredly be the year of the shared universe, with movies like Batman V. Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse, Ghostbusters and of course, Star Wars: Rogue One. Disney will be certainly looking to shove even more Star Wars and Marvel down our collective gullets, and -truth be told- we are sort of okay with that. On the small screen side there will be plenty of old and new shows to look forward to, including the return of Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Sherlock. However, we are also looking forward to new Agent Carter and Daredevil, not to mention a possible Luke Cage show near the end of the year. Meanwhile, other shows like Preacher and the new X-Files have our interest piqued, and, of course, we would hate to leave out that 2016 will mark the last season of Mythbusters.

In the literary world, everyone is talking about a possible 2016 release date for The Winds of Winter, George R. R. Martin’s next installment in the Song of Ice and Fire series. Unfortunately, we would advise that you don’t hold your breath, unless you want to be just another causality in the long list of deaths attributed to the blood soaked career of Martin. JK Rowling is also getting back into the Harry Potter game with her newest movie Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them, and a new stage-play following the adult Harry Potter titled, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

On the video game side, there is only one title we here at The NYRD want to talk about, No Man’s Sky. This self-creating infinite galaxy MMO has the possibility to blow the lid off the immersive video game genre, and has the potential to pave the way for all new gaming experiences. Last year, NMS “stole the show” at every conference and convention where it was previewed. This could mark the next leap forward in video game experiences and we fully expect that we will have to shut down our office for a week just to get a grip on it.

Juno, the Dragon, and Beyond
This year in space exploration will see the Juno probe visit Jupiter in hopes of unlocking more of the gas giant’s secrets, including the moisture content of its atmosphere and how it was originally formed. There is still a lot we don’t know about the largest planetary body in our solar system and Juno is going to help us figure it out. We should also see the first manned launch of SpaceX’s Dragon V2.  SpaceX just ended 2015 with the successful landing of reusable rocket boosters that have the potential to dramatically cut costs of space launches. If everything remains on schedule American astronauts will no longer have to be dependent on Russia to reach the International Space Station. Instead NASA will buy them tickets on the Dragon, much like one might buy a bus ticket, except with more explosions and more leg room. Lastly, the Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) will be completed this September in Guizhou Province of China. The largest single-aperture telescope in the world it will be able to gaze three-times further into space than its predecessor, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

Weathering the New Year
We ended 2015 on a high note, the Paris Climate Summit was an unmitigated success, but in 2016 the real work begins. There is a lot of reason to be hopeful. In June all the states of the USA need to submit their plans to reduce emissions from power plants. The US Energy Commission is predicting an impressive increase in all renewable energy sources, and a steadying of CO2 based emissions in comparison with the past four years. This includes a 14% growth for solar and wind energy. With hybrids and electric cars becoming more affordable and commonplace, and with increasing EPA emissions standards even car manufacturers and other big businesses are starting to think green.

Around the world places like India and China are starting to slow their pollution. China has even suspended new mining endeavours, which gives real hope that we can stay under the 1.5 degree mark for global warming. One could even say the winds are starting to change, at least as long as that person doesn’t mind using terrible cliched puns. We at the NYRD are completely above all that, of course.

The End of the Rainbow Discrimination
With both Hilary Clinton and Barry Sanders -who co-sponsored the amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964– have expressed deep concern for the fact that 31 states have no explicit law  against firing members of the LGBTQ community for their gender or sexual identity. This is despite the fact that it is now legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry in all 50 states. There is a strong hope that 2016 will see an end to this type of discrimination. With the two front-running democrats both claiming they will push for a more protection for LGBTQ people we have high hopes that something will get done this year on this issue. At the very least it should become a topic of major debate both for Presidential nominees and members of Congress.

50 Shades of Gun Metal Gray
President Obama recently announced that he will be enacting an executive order to tighten existing gun laws in the country. This comes after a 2015 filled with mass shooting and nonsensical rhetoric. In fact, 27 Americans were killed by guns on Christmas. We will not go into the specifics of the President’s plan -as he still has yet to announce the majority of it- but hopefully more regulated gun control can make 2016 a much less violent year. Unfortunately we are already off to a rocky start. With any luck things can only improve.

Another hope for less violence comes in the form of an announcement that the Justice Department will begin keeping track of how many individuals are killed by law enforcement officials. In the past, the data collection on either purposeful or accidental deaths caused by police and other law enforcement were voluntary. In other words, it was near impossible to get clear statistics, data, and accountability on the rise and decline of police violence in certain areas. This is only one small piece that has led to more mistrust of law enforcement by citizens, especially by black Americans, in a year already riddled by alleged brutality and possible police misconduct. Having greater statistical accountability is only a small step, but it is one in the right direction. With any luck, in 2016 we will heal the wounds of the previous year and help us move forward not as black or white but as citizens and neighbors.

No Country for Old Politics
Currently, the American political landscape is a mess. The Republican primaries are more bloated than Jabba the Hutt after a large meal, and the front-runners are more extreme and perverse than even some of Jabba’s tastes. On the Democratic side a David and Goliath battle is being waged between the party establishment-hopeful, Clinton, and the social media darling, Sanders. Even worse everybody on your Facebook seems to have an opinion and none of them are completely satisfying, but there is a possible silver lining to this darkening and maddening cloud.

The popularity of Sanders, Trump, and Carson -despite what anyone may think of their politics- is actually a hopeful sign. The Democratic and Republican parties have been controlled for too long by party elders and big donors, all of which seem out of touch with what the common American wants. The fact that any of the “fringe candidates” are still polling competitively at this point in the race shows that things are starting to change. Trump and Carson are especially interesting, because even though they couuld never win a general election, they are exposing cracks in the normal GOP/Tea Party rhetoric. There has been speculation that this could even lead to the dissolution of the party or at the very least to a radical changing of the Republican party in America. That may be an extreme example, but either way nothing is ever going to be the same again for the conservatives.

Bear in mind, that we have made our opinions on Trump and his hate-mongering known before, but he does prove that the power of the people can outweigh the power of the corporations and the lobbyists. Bernie Sanders, too, has practically financed his entire campaign from donors giving $200 or less. Whenever anyone talks about the political system these days it is always in tones of how much worse things have gotten, but for once, let’s take a step back and see the positives of what is going on.

All the Rest
Finally, we cannot forget that 2016 marks the Summer Olympics in Rio, where -surprisingly- the USA Rugby team has a decent chance at winning the gold. -We bet you didn’t even know that the US had a rugby team- Of course, there is also San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and all the other great conventions and annual events look forward to as well. As it stands the coming year offers a lot of promise for a better, stronger, and nerdier America and the world. However, these things are never easy and the path is almost never clear. That is why it takes people like you and us to forge it.

So, if you are looking for a resolution, let us offer this suggestion. Do everything you can to read and educate yourself on the important changes, topics, and events going on around you this year. Use your knowledge to take an active role and not sit on the sidelines. Get out and vote, or volunteer, or even just offer a helping hand to a friend in distress. 2016 can be a truly amazing year, but only with your help. As for us, we here at The NYRD promise to do our part to try and keep you informed and entertained this new year. So stay tuned, because the best is yet to come.

Have a Happy and Hopeful New Year.

It is rare that we here at The NYRD give “props” to the SyFy Channel for anything they have done. After they canceled Farscape we were never the same again. However, even we have to admit that the floundering network that was once dedicated to science fiction has done some things right over the past few years. They are going to great lengths to try and introduce new and dramtic miniseries, movies, and in some cases they are even experimenting with actual science fiction. Unfortunately, the SyFy Channel still sometimes has problems with getting out of its own way, and like any good friend, maybe it is time for us to all sit down with the network we used to love and have an intervention.

When Science Fiction Became SyFy
The first hints of the SyFy network’s decline started way back 2009 when the Sci Fi Channel changed its name to the SyFy Network. -Properly pronounced See-Fee– It was a small change, but a big premonition of things to come. The change happened for two main reasons. First, NBC Universal realized that they could not copyright Sci Fi, because it was a fair-use genre name, and not a corporate brand. So in a trend that would become all to apparent, the channel made a change in the name of the bottom-line at the cost of ever so slightly isolating their original fan base. Secondly, -and most sinisterly- the change was made to “broaden” Syfy’s appeal. That is corporate Hollywood speak for, “we are trying to disassociate ourselves from our original nerd fan-base and aim for the people who watch MTV,” and tried they certainly did.

The SyFy Network became like that friend you used to have in high school who used to be happy to play Magic: The Gathering with you, but then one day found out that MTG wasn’t “cool.” So he changed his name to Todd and spent the next four years throwing dirt at anything or anyone who might try to remind him that he had once been a nerd. So, as the years progressed, SyFy continued to make decisions in the name of “broader appeal,” which would also further jilt their original fan-base and a proverbial straw would be added the camel’s back. SyFy canceled fan favorite shows -including the network’s flagship show, Stargate– in order to make room for broadcasting aimed at attracting the Twilight tweenbase. Then, SyFy stopped making serious miniseries and movies to instead make Sharknado and other B-movies aimed to attract people who just want something to post about on their Facebook. This particular trend also further turned SyFy into a joke, as people began to associate the network with “all those terrible TV movies.” Lastly, SyFy doubled down on the cheap reality-show market instead of investing in new and interesting fictional dramas.

Every step that SyFy took was made to chase certain fads or attract typically “non-nerdy” people to watch the channel. All the while, the message that original and nerdy fans got from SyFy was, “We don’t care about you. You’ll watch anything we say you will. We want the people who watch Jersey Shore.” All the while that original fan base felt more and more disrespected. You see, SyFy was trying to fo what channels like TLC and the History Channel had accomplished, and for those networks “broader appeal” meant less shows about history or learning and more about watching reality shows about hillbillies do hillbilly things, even if a lot of those things were staged. It didn’t work as well for SyFy. The network never really attracted new viewers, and their original fan-base moved on. The sad truth is that most of them forgot about SyFy, just like most of us forgot about Todd. After all, if SyFy wasn’t willing to accept the nerd community, than the nerd community believed that it could find better places to put its time and money, and it certainly did.

How SyFy Missed the Nerd Bus
A strange thing happened in the late 2000’s and early 10’s, geekdom started going mainstream. About the same time SyFy began its disassociation from its nerdy roots, the rest of the media found their inner geek. Iron Man debuted in 2008. The Walking Dead broke cable records in 2010, and Game of Thrones broke all the records in 2011. Star Trek became a blockbuster movie franchise and Hollywood started clamoring for everything form superheroes to spacemen. Suddenly, the nerd was the king of pop culture, and SyFy was left holding the bag. Most of their base had already abandoned them for more serious networks, like AMC, and the network who once believed that nerdy interests meant “ratings poison,” suddenly became the laughing stock of cable TV. All they had to offer was second-rate reality shows and B-movies about different types of sharks, -ghost sharks, tornado sharks, Jersey Shore sharks, etc-

Perhaps the greatest irony of all was that SyFy, was the channel that had been practically built for shows like Sleepy Hollow, Gotham, Agents of SHIELD, or any one of the other numerous projects that exploded onto cable, broadcast, and streaming channels, but it was too late. SyFy had altered their image so much, and gone so far in the opposite direction of who they had been, they couldn’t compete. They got scared of their own content and fan base, and they paid the price for it. The biggest irony of them all is that people have begun to forget the good that the old Sci Fi Channel once did for us geeks.

Sure, some people still remember Battlestar Galactica, as one of the first of the new breed of compelling episodic science fiction dramas. Yet, how many people remember that it was SyFy that started showing Doctor Who, before Matt Smith ever made it into the “American” pop culture phenomenon that it became? SyFy should have doubled down on their fan base instead of isolating them. Maybe then we would be living in a world where SyFy had bought the rights to Firefly or where they took a risk on a mega-production and made a 10-episodic epic before Game of Thrones ever became a a glimmer in HBO’s eye. What if SyFy took control of lesser known comic universe, like the WildCats, and turned that into their own serious comic book multi-show universe, like what Netflix is currently doing with Marvel?

Trying to Make Amends
About a year ago SyFy basically admitted that they screwed up, and if this is an intervention than the first step to getting better is admitting you have a problem. Ever since then, the channel has been doing its best to get back to their roots. The miniseries Ascension was decent. We cannot call it a home run, but definitely a step in the right direction with an interesting premise. Other new projects like Hunters and Childhood’s End also show promise. Dark Matter is doing well, though we cannot find a single person who has actually watched it. The disappointing truth is that everyone here at The NYRD stopped watching SyFy about the same time they lost Eureka and Warehouse 13, and we are not alone.

SyFy’s overall ratings tend toward cancellation. More of their shows are cancelled than are renewed, including a lot most people have never heard of. Currently, SyFy seems to be putting all its chips on Krypton, the new DC drama that will take place decades before the birth of Superman. It has been promised to basically be like Gotham and Game of Thrones in space. We are dubious about another superhero prequel show, but here is the weird thing, we are secretly rooting for SyFy. Part of us our nostalgic for the days when we could plop down on couch on a Friday night and turn the TV to Sci Fi to watch classic movies and fun science fiction shows. However, with a plethora of reality shows and wrestling still occupying their airwaves, there is a lot more work to be done.

When the Sci Fi Channel was started back in 1992 it was launched with a big ceremony at the Hayden Planetarium. The MC was Leonard Nimoy. The advisory board was made up of people with names like Asimov and Rodenberry. It was started as a place to show classic Star Trek and classic sci-fi movies like Frankenstein. SyFy has come very far from those origins. They have made their mistakes and taken their lumps. Now it is time for them to get back up and find their way back to where they started, back to what they could have been. We do not want to lose Syfy the way we lost History or TLC or numerous other networks with new “broader appeal.” SyFy needs to learn the lesson of every nerd in high school, “sometimes in life you don’t need to impress the kids at the cool table. Sometimes the only person you need to be is you, because, for the people that love you, that is already pretty damn impressive.”

It has been rumored for quite sometime that Star Trek would be returning to the small screen. According to multiple outlets, Alex Kurtzman who co-wrote 2009’s Star Trek and its confusing and terrible sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, will be the executive producer of the new show. Many fans have already come out with comments on how troubling it is, as Kurtzman is among the creative team that turned a show about science, exploration, and idealism, into a two and half hour parade of explosions, lens flare, and plot holes so big you can comfortably fit a Galaxy-class starship through them.

The show will premiere in January 2017 and will be produced by CBS Studios. The pilot will air on CBS and then, the entire show will move to the CBS video on-demand and streaming service, CBS All Access. This is even more troubling news because it means that this new Star Trek is being developed specifically for the CBS streaming service, a paid for service that fans will need to purchase for an additional monthly fee. Internationally, the show will, however, “be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms.”

No one is yet sure of the time frame, universe, or plot points of the new show, but rest assured it seems as if it will be set in the new ST09 universe. We only have the official press release to go on:

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966… The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film “Star Trek Beyond,” which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

That, at least, is a little bit of good news. If the official release is to be believed, Star Trek will look to return to its roots to explore socially relevant themes, hopefully with that dash of optimism and science that was have come to expect from the 50 year old franchise. The bad news is that CBS is really looking to use Star Trek to force people into paying for their streaming service.

“This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before – directly to its millions of fans through CBS All Access,” said Marc DeBevoise, Executive Vice President/General Manager of CBS Digital Media. “We’ve experienced terrific growth for CBS All Access, expanding the service across affiliates and devices in a very short time. We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series.”

This news has left a lot of people with a mixed reaction. It has been too long since Star trek has been on TV – more than 10 years- but many worry this could be more like a deal with the devil. The network is basically holding the show hostage to boost their sales, and that alone could be enough to kill it. Kurtzman and CBS think they will have the automatic loyalty of Trekkies, but they have a big hole to dig themselves out of. Without creative names like, Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor, Brannon Braga, or Ronald D. Moore attahced, a lot of people remain wary of the future prospects of this franchise on TV.

We at The NYRD will -try to- withhold our judgement until after we see the next movie, Star Trek Beyond. However, like a resurrected loved one, we have to wonder what we will actually be getting back: the franchise we all love and cherish, or just a shambling corpse that only serves the purpose to remind us what once was.


Image Courtesy: http://www.ibugtoday.com/trekkie-talk

Last night AMC gave us the first look at their newest TV series, Preacher. It is more than likely that they will look to use this new show to fill the void of The Walking Dead‘s mid-season hiatus. The cable channel has been trying to keep their audience in between seasons to varying degrees of success, and now they have turned to another comic series to keep attention until everyone’s favorite undead zombie show returns.

The comic, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillion is a celebrated series and there have been several attempts over the years to make it into a TV series or film. Published by Vertigo, Preacher is the story of Reverend Jesse Custer, who becomes possessed by an immensely powerful creature called Genesis. A baby born of an unnatural coupling of demon and angel, Genesis has enough power to rival God, but because of its infancy has almost no will of its own. After Genesis and Jesse unintentionally kill the preacher’s congregation, the reverend hits the road to find God. The big man abandoned heaven after the birth of Genesis and now the powers of heaven and hell are running amok. Jesse is joined in this journey by his hit-woman ex-girlfriend, Tulip, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy.

However, you get none of that from the trailer itself, which just seems to promise violence without any of the supernatural frills. Shortly after airing the trailer, AMC released the clip online; featuring Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer and Joe Gilgun as Cassidy, plus quick glimpses of Ruth Negga as Tulip O’Hare.

Preacher is set to debut in 2016 on AMC, for a 10-episode first season. No date has been set for the series premiere


Image courtesy: http://www.amc.com/shows/preacher/talk/2015/09/amc-announces-series-order-for-preacher

If you say, “Marc Spector” to your average person they will have no idea who you are talking about, but with the success of Daredevil and early positive reviews for Jessica Jones, Marvel may soon look to add Moon Knight to their Netflix line-up.

The rumor comes from Umberto Gonzalez of Heroic Hollywood. He dropped a hint on the televised fate of Spector while guest starring on Collider Heroes on YouTube. “The hot rumor is that Moon Knight is actually being developed for Netflix since he is a divergence of Bruce Wayne,” said Gonzalez. “So like the way they’re back-door piloting Punisher in ‘Daredevil’ season two, if it works out, same thing with Moon Knight.”

Unfortunately, not much more is mentioned after that, and there have been rumors about Moon Knight coming to the MCU for a long time. So it is entirely possible this all coming off an old rumor that has since been debunked, but we here at The NYRD remain hopeful.

Marc Spector is Marvel’s answer for Bruce Wayne, with a dark tone and history to match. For example, unlike Batman, Moon Knight earned his fortune through mercenary work, but he is an expert combatant with peak strength and agility. He would not be out of place at all in the world that Daredevil created. His storylines tend to get violent, making him a much better match for Netflix than the more colorful and kid-friendly big screen MCU. He has also been a member of The Defenders, which helps strengthen these rumors.

There has been talk for sometime that all the Marvel Netflix shows will converge into one, becoming the superhero team The Defenders. Though, like the Avengers, The Defenders have had many line-ups in the past, including everyone from Daredevil to Moon Knight to Doctor Strange and the Hulk.


Photo courtesy: http://www.comicvine.com/forums/battles-7/saiko-vs-moon-knight-688898/

New York Comic Con has come and gone. We here at The NYRD enjoyed every moment. Check out all the pictures taken by our resident photographer. We want to thank everyone we met and mingled with at the show. This truly was one of the greatest collection of nerds on the east coast. There were some great panels, some big news, some awesome previews, and more than a fair share of excellent displays to keep us busy. Most importantly we got to meet some amazing people and dedicated fans, but that was our experience.

Share your experiences with us in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to like, share, and tweet to us with all your great pictures and moments from this year’s New York Comic Con. For more, remember to keep checking back with The NYRD to stay up to date with all our news, in-depth articles, artwork, and more. Don’t forget to subscribe and contribute. We are always looking for the most excellent of nerds to help our little community grow.

For now enjoy the gallery below and watch our weekend-long adventure as we met, mingled, and geeked our way through New York Comic Con 2015. What more can a NYRD ask for?

This Sunday marks the start of the sixth season of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Rick and the group have come a long way over the past five seasons and this one promises to be no different. The wolves are not far. However, as much as we may sometimes simplify our favorite zombie series, there is a lot more going on in the world of the The Walking Dead than questions like, “What is the best way to kill a walker.”-Hint: It’s not fire. If you set a zombie on fire than all you have is a flaming zombie.- After all, surviving in the apocalyptic wasteland requires a lot of things, but sometimes you have to wonder, “Is morality one of them?”

Universal Sheriffism
Moral universalism  is the idea that there exists a right and a wrong outside of our own judgements and decisions. Basically, it means that the universe has a static right and wrong to it independent of human thought and circumstance. As the show opens, way back in season 1, this was Rick’s view of the world. To a young and beardless Sheriff Grimes there was a right and wrong, and he walked that line as best as he could. There is even a moment in that first episode when he apologizes to a zombie for what has happened to her. He then wastes a bullet from his gun to “kill” her out of “mercy.” These are the actions of a moral man. Rick also goes back for Merle after he was abandoned on the roof, and in season 2 he pleads and negotiates with Hershel to let them stay on the farm. The idea is that the ends could never justify the means.

Rick’s foil throughout the first two seasons is Shane, his best friend. Shane could be said to represent a sort of moral relativism. Shane’s morals are guided by the situation, the environment, and by his own need to survive. There are several types of relativisms and in the beginning we see Shane acting more in accordance with what you might call contractarianism, or social relativism. He bases his decisions and actions on what is right for the group, and what is dictated by the society he inhabits. It’s why he demands that they storm Hershel’s farm instead of asking to use it. The ends justified the means. However, as Shane becomes more isolated from the group he slides toward ethical egoism. Right and wrong become about what is best for him. It’s why he kills Otis and why eventually he plots to kill Rick.

You need to remember that both Rick and Shane were sheriffs, but maybe for different reason. As uniformed officers they were expected to uphold the law and to Rick that made sense. His universalism was reinforced by being and agent of justice. Shane, however, upheld the law because it gave him a position of power in a world of social relativism. As he saw it, the law dictated the morals of civilized society and he helped execute those rules. When the civilizations and its laws collapsed he abandoned his sheriff persona, as he believed those rights and wrongs no longer applied. Even physically he opted for more practical and comfortable clothing. On the other hand, Rick’s first action in the new world was to put on the uniform that he believed represented law and order, because his morals were universal. Civilization or no civilization he saw the uniform as representing something more. The Walking Dead has since taught us that law and the uniform do not represent morality, as demonstrated in the first half of season 5 by the rulers of the Atlanta hospital, but it is a lesson our favorite sheriff had to learn after many hard decisions.

Relative Beardism
Rick killed Shane because he had to. Morally right or wrong, the situation necessitated that Shane die and Rick live. There was a significance in that action. Rick changed forever after being forced to run a knife through his friend. It was not the first human he killed on the series but it was a threshold of sorts. In essence, he kill the character but the moral relativism of Shane endured, infecting Rick as sure as any zombie virus. Over the next three seasons we then watch as Rick’s actions change. He claimed dictatorship of the group, he turned away Tyreese’s group, and never hesitated to kill any cannibal or threat that came along. People were no longer someone he had to help. They were either part of his family, -not just Judith and Carl, but the whole group- or a threat to that family. You are with us or against us.

It is not a coincidence that as Rick’s actions became more extreme so did his look. He shed his sheriff’s uniform piece by piece, literally losing parts of himself as the series progressed. He did give his hat to Carl as if trying to bequeath his son his last bit of morality, and as he lost those ideas of law and order he also let his facial hair grow. It started as a dark stubble before becoming a respectable and even attractive beard. Yet, by the mid point of season 5 the beard and Rick’s actions had taken on a life of their own, obscuring the truth of what lay beneath. The thing about morality and beards is that if you let either of them become extreme you sometimes just come off looking like a crazy person, as Rick did when confronted by Aaron and his offer of haven in Alexandria. Michonne was right when she pointed out that they had been in the wild too long. Rick’s facial hair certainly seemed to agree.

Maybe that is why it was so shocking and so interesting when The Walking Dead once again presented us with a clean shaven and clipped Rick Grimes. Even better he was put back in a uniform and given back the responsibility of upholding law and order. Except this time, it was not the same. Those words meant different things in the new world. This time the dichotomy of the two law enforcement officers was not Shane and Rick, but Rick and Michonne. In that grouping Rick becomes the extreme one. There was no hesitation when he was finally let off the leash to kill Pete, Alexandria’s doctor and resident wife beater. The show was giving us a very stark symbol of how far Rick had come. Visually and even responsibility wise he appeared as the same person as he did from episode 1, but personality-wise he was still the survivor and the killer his experiences had made him. Yet, is he really a different person?

The Dilemma of Moral Compasses
The Walking Dead never gives us bad characters, not really. -The Governor had a small shred of humanity, the cannibals had their reasons- but we do get very good characters, Dale, Hershel, Tyreese, and even Noah and Beth. In some way they represented moral compasses or an innocence. They also did not last long. The argument can be made that Rick is the group’s ultimate moral compass, not  because he does immoral things to survive but because he still recognizes the immorality of them. Rick’s journey has been long and hard, but maybe he has not come as far as one might think. The difference between him and people like the Governor, Shane, or Gareth is that they have embraced their new ethical standing. They no longer feel the guilt that comes with the acts they commit, but most of Rick’s struggle comes from his unwillingness to do so. In essence, he is sacrificing his morality, and a part of him recognizes that, because to fully relinquish those old ideals would be to become something else.

In the world of The Walking Dead, it is not the zombies who are the monsters. Becoming a zombie means becoming a creature without thought. You have no desire, no honor code, no drive other than basic hunger. No, it is the people like Rick and the group who are left to worry about ideas of morality, heroes and monsters, and that is the point. It is no coincidence that every writer on AMC’s The Walking Dead is required to read psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. It is a narrative about a true-life account of a concentration camp survivor and how he must reconcile civilized morality with an uncivilized situation. How do we stay human in a dehumanizing world? What even is morality in a world without civilization?

In truth, all the characters follow some form of morality. Carol may be more on the “ends justify means” spectrum but she still feels for Jessie and her kids when they are faced with a problem she can personally relate too. Glenn finds it in himself to forgive a man who shot him and got Noah killed. Even Sasha with all her PTSD refuses to pull the trigger on Gabriel. We tend to label some characters as “moral compasses” because they embody a morality closer to what our modern society considers ethical, but maybe that says more about us than about Rick and the gang. Our concerns about what action is just or right are not always the same as the show’s characters. They do what they need to in order to survive. That means the real judgment of morality is purposely left for us to judge, because what would any of us do in their situation?

Last week, ABC and Disney premiered their newest show, The Muppets. An adult-oriented behind the scenes look at the lives of the Muppets. It seemed to hit all the right notes and was met with generally positive reviews, but of course it did. Hey, it’s the Muppets. They may just be inanimate objects operated by hands and string, but they are people too, as real as you and Chuck Norris. However, it wasn’t always like that. In fact, the Muppets started from very humble beginnings and from what Jim Henson once called, “ridiculous optimism.

Jim and Friends
In 1954 Jim Henson started working with a partner at the University of Maryland creating puppets for children’s programming airing in the DC area. While working with Jane Nabel -who would later become Jane Henson- Jim created the Muppets, starting with the unforgettable frog himself, Kermit. It is said that Jim Henson coined the term “muppet” as a combination of marionette and puppet. Starting in 1955, Kermit and Rwolf, became regulars on the Sam and Friends show. Initially Rwolf was the more popular of the duo, going on to appear as a sidekick to Jimmy Dean on several episodes of the Jimmy Dean Show, starting in 1963. This was mostly due to Rwolf’s mastery of the piano.

It wasn’t until 1969 with the premiere of Sesame Street that Kermit really found his groove. Kermit was one of the original Muppets to appear on the children’s classic show, and ten years later when Jim Henson decided to create a Muppet television series that could be enjoyed my adults and children alike, it was Kermit the Frog who emerged as the heart and leader of the Muppet troupe. The Muppet Show, first aired on September 5, 1976. A sketch comedy that featured parodies, musical performances, and a flock of big name celebrities. The show was a hit and introduced the world at large to the Muppets including such new characters as Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo and Animal.

After the success of The Muppet Show, the Muppets went on to make three movies, The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan. At nearly the same time, the Walt Disney Company entered into talks to buy the Muppets from Henson -because they have some sort of need to own the world- but the deal fell through with the death of Jim Henson in 1990. The company passed to his son and daughter Brian and Lisa Henson, who in association with Disney produced The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. Disney finally acquired the full rights to the Muppets in 2004, except for the Sesame Street characters, which were sold to Sesame Workshop, and the Fraggle Rock characters which were retained by the Henson Company. The mouse-run organization has since produced The Muppets, and Muppets Most Wanted, along with the new show simply titled The Muppets. They have also produced a slew of award winning YouTube videos -bet you didn’t know YouTube videos could be award winning?

As a result of the Disney purchase the name Muppet became trademarked, which means the NYRD is currently in serious violation of copyright laws, because we unabashedly use that term like forty times throughout this article. It also means that any other creatures created before or after the Disney acquisition could not be called Muppets. Thus creatures like Falkor from Never Ending Story or Pilot from Farscape, are not Muppets. They are just puppets created by the Jim Henson Creature Workshop. Sesame and Fraggle characters have a special exclusive licensing agreement with Disney, so they can still be called Muppets, but that is also why you don’t see Kermit the Frog appear anymore on Sesame Street. Also, please note that Yoda is and has never been a Muppet. He’s a Jedi and there is a difference.

The Wonderful Land of Oznowicz
However, we hardly need Disney’s corporate branding to tell us what is and isn’t a Muppet. There is something special about the lovable group of felt covered creations that just makes them different from other puppets. For example take Miss Piggy… please… Everyone’s favorite pig, was originally meant to be a background character, a generic female pig puppet, but a few months before the start of The Muppet Show, Jim Henson received a request to perform on a TV special with a “young starlet” character. So Piggy was done up, her eyelashes were extended, her hair was changed, and the puppet was given to a young man named, Richard Frank Oznowicz, known mostly by is stage name, Frank Oz. Much like Oz, Miss Piggy was originally born under a different name, Miss Piggy Lee, but she dropped the last name. In a sketch where it was scripted for her to fight with Kermit, Miss Piggy did an impromptu karate chop and the character was born, along with her long standing relationship with Kermit.

That seems to be how the Muppets are really created. They aren’t just made with foam and glue, they evolve. New Muppet characters are often passed around among Muppet performers until one human seems to click with the new creation, and then the character’s personality, voice, mannerism, and more develop from there.  By most accounts the personality of Kermit the Frog seems to be very much based off of Henson himself, as he was the original puppeteer. Maybe that is why each Muppet feels as if they have a unique personality, as if they are really alive. Functionality wise some Muppets are simple, requiring only one person to operate, but then there are others that require an army of humans and technology. Yet, each of them feels like a person. This is partly because Jim Henson was the first person to pioneer the idea that the Muppets were not just puppets controlled by people, but actual creatures.

The Muppets were the first puppet characters to use the TV camera as a framing device. Before that puppeteers were either hidden behind a visible stage on screen, or the puppets sat next to them, like a ventriloquist. With no human operator on screen and no indication of a human presence the Muppets became people unto themselves. It also helps that, unlike other puppets, the Muppets are very articulated. In other words, it is not the movement of the mouth, but the hands, feet, and other appendages that help create the illusion of reality. Humans operators work below the Muppets, using their right hand to operate the mouth and their free hand to operate the Muppet’s arms. As a result, many of the Muppet characters tend to be left handed. This illusion of reality is so strong that we don’t even like to think about humans playing a part in making the Muppets who they are. In fact even talking about their operation in this past paragraph as made us feel wrong inside, and there is a reason for that.

Getting Inside the Muppets
We want to believe that the Muppets are alive. They are our friends and people we grew up with. Did you know there is a concept that something can be real, even if it is imaginary? Dr. Jennifer Barnes has a great TED talk on this very subject. She talks about how we form relationships with fictional characters. We come to empathize with them. They are real to us even at the same time they are imaginary. It’s why we cry when George R. R. Martin works his sadistic magic or why we cheer when  Rocky wins the Cold War. In fact, it has been observed on Sesame Street and in other similar programs that children who interact with Muppets, treat them as living creatures, even if they can see the person who is operating and talking for that Muppet. It is a special kind of suspension of disbelief that our minds can entertain, especially when it comes to Kermit and his friends. It doesn’t matter who has their hand in it, we still identify them as distinct individuals from their controllers, and so does all of Hollywood.

The Muppets have appeared in a lot of things. The Muppets have a star on the Holylwood Walk of Fame, in addition to Kermit’s own individual star. The Muppets have presented at both the Oscars and Emmy’s. They’ve made cameos in various non-muppet movies, including Rocky III. They have had guest appearance on shows like The Cosby Show, and West Wing. They have been interviewed on late night and daytime TV. Kermit the Frog was one of the first guests Jon Stewart ever had during his early days on The Daily Show. They have guest hosted several TV shows including The Tonight Show, Extreme Makeover, and even Larry King Live. They have made numerous public appearances during the Rockefeller Tree Lighting, New Year’s Eve in Times Square, and Kermit even gave a TED talk. Kermit appeared on Hollywood Squares and as a commentator on VH1’s I Love documentary series. All of this contributes to how we see and think of the Muppets. They aren’t just creatures they are working actors and genuine celebrities.

When you watch The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, and you see Kermit the Frog acting as Bob Cratchit, you don’t think, “They made Bob Cratchit a green frog?” No, you think, “Oh Kermit is playing Bob Cratchit,” in the same way you think of Michael Cane as playing the part of Ebeneezer Scrooge. We instinctively see the Muppets as people, even as a part of our brain acknowledges that they aren’t. Maybe it helps that we were introduced to the Muppets as a character troupe on a variety show, but there is something more to it.

What is the difference between a real person and a puppet or a cartoon on TV? They both have personalities. You feel an emotion for both of them? You enjoy their company? Maybe a better question is, what is the difference between Jon of Arc and Miss Piggy? You have never met either of them, unless of course you met Miss Piggy. You probably know more about Miss Piggy than Joan of Arc. You probably feel more attachment for the Pig of the Muppets over the The Maid of Orléans. Yet, of those two it is Joan of Arc who was a real flesh and blood human. So maybe in some sense, Piggy, Fozzy, Gonzo, Rizzo, and Kermit are real in some way. They are obviously more real to us than people we acknowledge as having been actual famous humans. The Muppets are loved, they are respected, and they have a positive impact on the world. If only that could be said of every real person out there.

According to rumors and bolstered by the existence of a Facebook page, Nickelodeon will soon be launching a channel dedicated entirely to 90’s cartoons, or Nick-Toons as they were known back in the day. Rugrats; Hey, Arnold; Ren & Stimpy; Rocko’s Modern Life; Ahh, Real Monsters; and more will air on The Splat.

Nickelodeon has already uploaded YouTube videos that confirms the 90’s cartoon nostalgia-fest will be coming, but there are now rumors that it may not happen as its own dedicated channel. There is a possibility that, instead, The Splat may be a block of ’90s shows that would exist within the already-established network. Think of it less like Boomerang and more like Adult Swim.

Ultimately, that may be a smarter way for Nickelodeon to go, as a full network established just to tug at the heart-strings of 90’s children may not be that successful. Yes, we want to watch Hey, Arnold again but nostalgia only goes so far. As any channel such as this would only be aimed more at recapturing older audiences, as opposed to garnering new ones. We would question how far that revenue stream could really extend. Yet, if The Splat is made a block of programming on the Nickelodeon channel, itself, then it could have the potential to entice both younger viewers and older ones to watch.

This is just the latest in a string of nostalgia grabs by networks who are trying to peddle childhood memories to older members of the Millennial Generation. Disney’s Girl Meets World, for example is a show with an entire premise that can be defined as: “Hey remember when this was a thing.” At least by replaying these older cartoons -instead of making updated versions- Nickelodeon is giving us quality programming, even if it is just another way to try and recapture the original Nickelodeon generation’s waning attention span for just another quick boost in ratings.

Yeah, we’ll still watch.


Photo courtesy: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/hey-arnold-is-coming-back-and-possibly-rugrats-too-10484293.html

As anyone who reads comic books know, heroes never stay dead for long, and the same can now be said of the Tick. According to Rolling Stone the short-lived but cult classic sitcom starring Patrick Warburton is being brought to Amazon. The streaming TV service has only purchased a pilot for the show, and it will be up to viewers if the show is once again picked up for a new season.

The Tick’s creator Ben Edlund is slated to as writer and producer, as well as Patrick Warburton, but there is no news whether the rest of the cast will be returning. At the very least we hope to see  David Burke reprise his role as Arthur, the Tick’s sidekick/partner/nursemaid. However we would, of course, also like to see the return of Liz Vassey as Captain Liberty and Nestor Carbonell as Batmanuel. We here at The NYRD are huge fans of the TV series dating back to when it was originally on the air with the Fox Network.

The Tick was another unfortunate causality at a time when Fox was canceling everything from Family Guy to Firefly, and much like those better know shows, The Tick was canceled after only nien  episodes, even though it received high critical acclaim. Though the outcry and cult fanbase may never have rose to Whedon-esque levels the show has always had a dedicated following. This move by Amazon is just the latest in their strategy to up the prestige of their streaming service in an attempt to compete with services like Netflix, whose grab of Arrested Development, another canceled cult comedy show, help propel their revenue stream and jumpstart their Netflix Originals TV shows.

In the Spring, Amazon signed a contract with HBO, to stream popular HBO shows like The Sopranos, and The Wire. They have also been movie forward with their own original content such as Jeffrey Tambor’s Transparent. The will be offering the rebooted Tick pilot for free and will then pay attention to how many fans and others check out the show. Much like any comic book character, the life of The Tick, very much remains in the hands of the fans. We know we will be tuning in to check it out and we hope you will be too.


Photo courtesy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/30/amazon-the-tick-warburton_n_5741254.html

Rubber Sword. A rubber sword is something you practice with before you graduate on to the next level. Level Up: +800K to income, and +2 dragon slaying. In a lot of ways the Colbert Report was a rubber sword, as this week Stephen Colbert will be moving on to bigger and better things. Emmy’s that are twice the size? Yet, we can’t help but wonder what the future will be now that the TV icon, Stephen Colbert, has left his persona behind and will be taking over for David Letterman.

For more than nine years we knew Stephen Colbert as an arrogant, obstinate, flag-waving parody, who was obsessed with Lord of the Rings, but that will not be the man we who hosts The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The old Colbert is dead. RIPundit. Instead, the world will finally meet the real man, the thoughtful, liberal, articulate, clever comedian who is obsessed with Lord of the Rings. For the actor and talk show host taking over the Late Show this is an incredible opportunity, and we here at The NYRD wish him all the best. If you have taken a walk down Broadway lately you would have noticed that he has already revamped the outside of the Ed Sullivan theater with a brand new and incredibly awesome marquee. The Marquis de Colbert, but is he ready for this next chapter in his TV journey?

Colbert has a long road to climb and big shoes to fill, not just those of David Letterman, but of Stephen Colbert the character. He is going to face direct comparisons to his fake-self, Every morning in the mirror, as well as to his past satirical style of humor. The comparisons are not wholly unfair, either. The fake Colbert has a large body of work and accomplishments for a man who may or may not exist, Schrödinger’s Colbert. More to the point he has earned the love and respect of the viewing audience for over nine years, and that is a hard act to follow. Yet, if there is one person who can do it, it may be the actual Stephen Colbert.

The comedian has already demonstrated that he has the ability and the drive to put on a great show. The very fact that the Colbert character worked for so long is a testament to his comedic timing and improv skills. The real Stephen has already released a variety of YouTube clips that could be classified as comedic proof of his brilliance, and even did a late night cable access show in July, in Monroe, Michigan as if by accident. The same way anyone ends up in Michigan. These small previews of what to come are the glimmers of hope that could help Stephen Colbert become more than just another talking/joking head of late night TV. He has never shied away from the spotlight or from making the big statement. His ability to make a flippant comment that could be simultaneously hysterical, poignant, and uncomfortably probing, Like a hemorrhoid examination, was part of his charm. Despite his humor he never let his guests get away without answering the tough questions, much like his predecessor, David Letterman.

Now this move from cable gives him a much larger and louder platform, and that can very positive, as part of Colbert’s appeal has always been his willingness to help. Col-Aide. Yet, it also means that there is more room for failure, and more people to not get his jokes or his outrageous antics. This will be late night TV without a net. Non-Net-Work Network TV. The old character of Colbert is now part of the annals of television history and we fear we may never see his like again. Bill O’Reilly fears the opposite. He left this world for the undying lands along with Santa Claus, Abraham Lincoln, and Alex Trebek, The Ho Ho Holy Trinity, and since his departure we have been left with one less person who could truly engage in the work of bringing laughter while making the world a better place for it. That is what Colbert, both real and fake one, has always done best. We can only hope that he continues to do so on his new show.

With the loss of Jon Stewart, we are in desperate need for a late night comedian with a conscience, and who better than the master wizard of late night himself. Unexpecto Stephum. Though, we are certain, this new show will not be as politically charged there is still plenty of room for controversy and to cause the kind of trouble that Colbert the character was always so good at. Whether running for President, creating a Super PAC, getting a treadmill on the International Space Station named after him, and even a species of invasive ant, we could always count on the character to create a little havoc in this world. Sufficed to say, he had an impact, but there was a mind behind the antics and a man who used his position to touch so many people, All lawsuits are still pending, both as a TV personality and a philanthropist.

Colbert has raised money for a variety of causes, not the least of which was for our soldiers overseas. He helped save the US Speed Skating team, and even played in Baghdad for the troops during the Iraq War. Bob Hopiness. He testified before Congress, and lampooned two Presidents of the United States to their faces. Dinner was served. Stephen Colbert has already made a difference, and as much as we will never forget the stoney-eyed, self-sure, chest thumping conservative, we have confidence in the kind, genuine, and funny man who was always behind that mask. He found a way of inviting the viewer to laugh with him at the absurdity of any situation. If there is one hope we have The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, it is that it continues to help us laugh at ourselves and at the world around us.

We have faith in Stephen Colbert’s showmanship, his humor, his ability to leave us in hysterics, but most importantly, in his desire to make the world better. He has already shown he can do just that. Glenn Beck is off TV. That need to do good, to change the world and people’s perception, is one thing that cannot end with this move to network TV. After all, there is something truly amazing about having the ability to make a point without actually hurting anyone. Rubber Sword.

And that’s the word.

Who among us has not gazed out into the night sky and envisioned the possibilities. Science fictions are all about possibilities. Our graphic artists have taken some of NASA best images and used their skill to insert some of our favorite stories, because space is a vast and incredible place, and there is no telling what is really up there.

Who knows, we may even be up there ourselves someday. Until then, we can only dream.

This past week Hayley Atwell, star of Marvel’s Agent Carter was asked by fans whether she would consider a role on Doctor Who. Atwell, responded that she did not just want “a” role but “the” role of the Doctor herself. Of course, this was just a one-off-non-binding comment made on Twitter, but because this is the Internet it went viral and people weighed in on both sides of the old argument, “Should Doctor Who ever be a woman?” It is an argument almost as old as, “Can you call the character Doctor Who, considering his name is actually just The Doctor?

There are a fair share of naysayers, so called purists, but hidden among all this debate is a larger issue. In a world where everyday we are becoming more and more accepting of a fluid definition of gender identity, is it really too much to ask that our favorite Time Lord become a Time Lady?

Breaking the Silence in the Library
In order to fully talk about the subject of transgender and gender identity, there are certain aspects that we need to discuss. Think of this like the birds and the bees, except for the fact that that is a terrible example, because birds and bees are creatures driven by biological instinct and human beings have so much more going on than biology.  In fact, even picking just two animals skews the example. According to findings published by the University of Vienna, gender identity is not a duology. It exists on a spectrum of choices and feelings. So maybe we should start talking about the Bird, the Bees, the Grasshoppers, the Squirrels, and the Daleks, because at least that would be an analogy heading in the right direction. So as the Doctor’s greatest enemies might say, “EDUCATE!”

Biological gender is the gender we are all born with, male, female, or Zygon, but it is only one factor of our identity. Like those Zygons we have the choice of who we become. Gender roles are the roles that society expects of people based upon their biological gender. For instance, you might be expected to be a Time Lord if you possess a… sonic screwdriver… if you know what we are saying. However, gender identity, is the gender that individuals associate with themselves outside their biological and societally assigned gender roles. Those are the three big terms but there is a lot more at play, for example gender expression and sexual orientation also play a factor in determining someone’s identity, but there are no hard a fast rules about correlations between them. You could be a biological man, who identifies as a woman, but expresses himself as a man, and has sexual urges toward both males and female. We call that type of person a Captain Jack.

Gender identity is not a black and white issue. It’s about reds, and blues, and purples, and more all mixing together in a wibbley wobbly mess of stuff to make an identity that is as unique as the person themselves. Even better this is a concept that is becoming more understood and more accepted than ever before. Now, we are not saying that everything is Roses and Amy Ponds… but with high profile transgender celebrities, such as a certain ex-Olympian/the ex-worst father on reality TV, the general public and the mainstream media are coming to see the real fluidity of gender identity. So how can geeks and Whovians, in particular, be any less accepting?

The Doctor’s Life
Yes, the Doctor has always been a white male throughout the entirety of his twelve-ish regenerations, -fourteen if you count John Hurt and David Tennant twice,- but does that mean he has to stay male for all of them? After all, there have been made mentions of Time Lords who have swapped gender roles, most notably the Corsair, mentioned in Neil Gaiman’s masterpiece The Doctor’s Wife. The Doctor refers to his many incarnations as both him and her, even adding “Oh, she was a bad girl.” It is a statement which might also imply that there was something more going on between the Doctor and the Corsair during those periods when he was a she, which also implies a general sort of casual acceptance of this gender fluidity by the Doctor. Most recently, the classic Doctor Who villain, the Master even returned as a woman. All of this seems to suggest that the swapping of Time Lord genders seems to be neither impossible or even socially taboo.

Many fans have done a study on the subject and what they have found seems to indicate that most Time Lords have a biological gender. For instance, the Doctor is biologically male. After all, if regeneration was truly random, than the Doctor would have a 50/50 shot of being a man or a woman on his/her next go around, but that has yet to pan out. However, with these instance of gender swaps among Time Lords, it seems possible that, much like humans, biological gender may not influence one’s gender identity. Some fans believe that in order to accomplish a gender swap a Time Lord would need to have a controlled regeneration under a specific set of circumstance, but what if the answer is simpler than that? What if sometimes a Time Lord just feels like being another gender when it comes time to regenerate? It is more likely that on Gallifrey gender roles are not so rigid as they are on Earth, and if someone wants to spend a few hundred years as the opposite gender of their original biologically assigned sex, than there is nothing wrong with it. Unfortunately, as far as skin color goes, we still have no answer for that mystery.

Every time it is announced that there will be a new Doctor, the Internet becomes a buzz with rumors that it will be a woman, even before there was an Internet. The buzz has been going on since the departure of Tom Baker’s fourth Doctor, and yet every time the Doctor becomes another white male with a British accent. Have they ever considered maybe trying out an American one, possibly a New York or Boston accent? What about Welsh? Regardless, in a world where gender fluidity is becoming more understood and accepted, maybe it is time to start rethinking this reoccurring trend in the longest-running science-fiction/fantasy series in human history.

After all, Doctor Who has stayed progressive on certain issues, often priding itself on its strong female companions, yet there seems to be one glass ceiling even the TARDIS cannot break. In a world of Caitlyn Jenner, same-sex marriage, and more, now is the time to seriously reconsider who and what our thirteenth Doctor will be.

The Girls Who Have Waited
If you are taking suggestions, we are solidly throwing our hats in the corner of team Atwell, as her personality, range of acting, action chops, humor, and British accent, make her a perfect candidate for the job. For a show that prides itself on its innovate and creative stories, characters, and themes, this has been a change that has been a long time coming.

Yes, there will always be the complainers and the critics, but those exist no matter what. Whether you go from a 30-something Matt Smith to a 50-something Peter Capaldi or to a 30-something woman, the Internet will continue to be the Internet. More to the point, the arguments against such a change tend to hinge on ideas of tradition, or on skepticism that a woman could even do the job. Even worse, many complain that the dynamic between the companion and the Doctor would be ruined. These types of arguments are no better than many of the arguments thrown against gay marriage or the transgender population in general. Yes, change can be scary, but it can also be wonderful and amazing and open up new possibilities that can take life and 50-year old sci-fi properties in surprising new directions.

Even the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison has gone on record as being against the gender swap saying, “To have a female [Doctor] would be like having a female James Bond. It would be a rather odd thing.” Of course, we would also have to disagree with him about a female James Bond, or a black one for that matter, but that is an article for another day. Traditions are great when they are used to bring people together, but when they start to be used as justifications for discrimination or as a roadblock to progress, it might be time to reevaluate them and take a closer look at the people who are standing on the outside.

The transgender, pangender, cis-gender, and other gender communities are as vastly different and diverse as birds or bees or Sontarans. In the end, we are all our own creatures with out own gender identities, and we all have the right to chose who we get to be. Ultimately, that sounds very much like the moral of a Doctor Who episode, and of the Doctor himself. So we have to ask, if gender fluidity is good enough for one of our greatest nerd heroes, shouldn’t it also be good enough for us?

Geronimo.