The Octopus: Character Profile

“Smithsonian’s National Zoo Presents “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea”” by Smithsonian’s National Zoo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

One of my favorite aspects of filmmaking is the personification of animals. Since anyone can play voice acting over animation stills or live-action footage, it gives us the ability to relate to characters who are from different species. This opens up oodles of possibilities for symbolism for our stories. In many circumstances, the animal characters we all know and love are often more complex than human characters.

Of course, there have been phenomenal films where the animal characters don’t speak and prove to just as effective as characters who do speak. Some of these characters include Richard Parker from Life of Pi, the Mountain Lord from The Tiger, The Alpha from The Grey, and The Asset, from Shape of Water.

This is the start of a new series where I discuss individual animals that have had great success with communicating symbolism in storytelling. The first animal I’ll be discussing is the octopus.

The octopus is one of the smartest creatures in the ocean. Its problem-solving intelligence makes it a prime candidate for thriving in the open ocean. Its high intelligence allows it to use its special abilities in conjunction with a cunning wit to survive in hostile environments.

For storytelling, these traits are highly effective for communicating symbolism with characters who fail to understand their true potential. Octopuses can also be great supporting characters, as their unique biology allows them to pursue alternative solutions to problems that would be otherwise intangible to the rest of the cast.

Furthermore, octopuses can also provide sources of symbolism for themes of self-discovery, as these are animals with exclusive abilities that can’t be replicated anywhere else. This can symbolize the importance of personality diversity. The world around us needs all sorts of people with unique abilities and skillsets to function properly. It would be rude and naïve to shut these people out of your life because there are some problems that you can’t solve on our own.

This is why life-coaching and psychological therapy can prove to be phenomenal sources of income and fulfillment. Some people are skilled in different aspects of life than the rest of us. It would be foolish to believe that you would be more capable of helping yourself than someone who is highly educated on human behavior.

In other circumstances, some people have simply experienced things that have given them a different perspective on life. These unique perspectives have allowed them to be incredibly successful, so the least you could do is at least hear them out. These examples can prove to be highly valuable for writing a character arc for an octopus, as their high intelligence and unique abilities allow them to live a life much different than other animals.

An octopus’ special abilities, short lifespan, and high intelligence can be optimized for two roles. As supporting characters they can use their abilities to provide alternate solutions to problems faced by the main cast. As a mentor, their short lifespan can be symbolic of their wisdom, since their special abilities allow them to experience many incredible things in such a short time. The octopus’ biology, intelligence, and lifespan are all components that give the writer tools to teach their audience how to live up to their potential and overcome feelings of self-doubt. In this article, I’ll also discuss another character that expands upon the themes presented by the octopus.


Finding Dory


“Organic Octopus Art” by goldberg is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One character flaw that contrasts the magnetic self-sufficiency of the octopus is a lack of confidence and self-love. In many circumstances, characters become enlightened with these traits after going on a journey to retrieve an item, rescue another character, or reach a destination. When they complete their objectives, they are rewarded with life-changing knowledge based on the experiences they had along the way. These objectives are just devices for the writer to find a way to give their characters a goal so all of their decisions leading up to the climax make sense.

However, octopuses never have to “unlock” these abilities, thanks to their unique biology and problem-solving intelligence. For example, Hank, in Finding Dory, suffered something incredibly traumatic while exploring the ocean. When he experienced life in captivity, he never wanted to return to the ocean after what happened to him.

When he was collected by humans and sent to a marine institute, all he wanted was to live inside an aquarium where he would feel safe. During his adventures with Dory to help her find her parents, he uses his special abilities to get them out of precarious situations. He uses camouflage and shapeshifting to mimic a potted plant, he uses his ink cloud ability to scare off children. He uses his suction cups to traverse the institute like a monkey traversing a jungle.

These abilities complement Dory’s personality and character arc. Part of Dory’s philosophy is a risk-taker lifestyle that encourages spontaneous decision-making to live a fulfilling life, rather than settling for a sedentary, worry-free lifestyle. From Dory’s perspective, she doesn’t want to settle for a lifestyle that lacks adventure and opportunities. Life inside an aquarium offers safety and security, but life inside the ocean allows its inhabitants to live very unique and exciting lives. If you don’t have problems to solve, you’re never going to learn anything. For us to learn, we have to embrace vulnerability and view conflicts as learning experiences. If you stick yourself to an environment that has no conflict, you’re never going to grow.

Dory meets several characters who have unique abilities to help her traverse the institute and complete her objectives. Bailey is a beluga whale who uses echolocation to help Dory find where she needs to go. Destiny is a whale shark who uses her powerful voice as a guide, using it to talk through the pipe systems, effectively mitigating Dory’s short-term memory loss. Dory isn’t afraid to embrace her shortcomings because she knows there are some things she can’t accomplish by herself.

By the end of the film, Hank uses his uniqueness to help the main cast return to the ocean and escape the marine institute. The marine institute was symbolic of society’s favoritism over a care-free lifestyle, much like the color green in The Shape of Water.

In the film’s final scene, Hank has volunteered as a substitute teacher, signifying his new values of self-respect. As a substitute teacher, he can expose his wisdom to his students so they carry on his legacy, and make the world a better place.

Now that Pixar has completed Hank’s character arc, they can follow up with a third film that centers around Hank as he comes to terms with his short lifespan. Using his wisdom to help Nemo find out where he belongs, he can teach him how to move on from the security of his father and live on his own.

Considering that Hank is an adult, this is a prime opportunity to expose children to themes of death and acceptance, since octopuses only have a lifespan of a few years. As Nemo embraces Hank’s death, he’ll use Hank’s teachings to prepare himself for adulthood. When Nemo grows up, he’ll be able to embrace his new independence and build a new family as a father and husband.


JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure


“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Official App – Android & iOS apps – Free” by jpappsdl is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We don’t make mistakes, we only have happy accidents.

Bob Ross – The Joy of Painting

Although the octopus is a wonderful resource for communicating themes of self-development, I want to emphasize that there several other ways you can approach the same ideas using other animals. Since storytelling is mainly fiction, you are in control of the world you write. The great thing about storytelling is that there are no rules. As long as people enjoy consuming the content you love to write, what you choose to include in your fictional world doesn’t matter.

I feel that one person who perfectly represents this philosophy is Horohiko Araki, who is responsible for writing the manga series: JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure. Normally, writers plan out their stories before they start writing to prevent numerous issues that come with planning the story as you write.

When you plan out your story as you write, you might run into plot holes that are inescapable because you decided to change something about a character or an aspect of the story midway through. However, since JJBA has formed a reputation for being a universe that’s full of bizarre and ridiculous plotlines, this method of writing compliments the series’ spontaneous personality.


Iggy

In the third book of the series, Stardust Crusaders: Battle in Egypt, there is a character named Iggy, a dog who joins the main cast after being rescued by Joseph and Avdol.

Dogs in storytelling are normally present to represent themes of loyalty, vulnerability, and leadership. However, much like Hank failing to understand his true potential in Finding Dory, Iggy has rejected the loyalty in his genes in favor of a worry-free lifestyle. We never see Iggy contribute to the group unless he is forced to, best evidenced in his first appearance.

As a dog, Iggy could provide a much more involved addition to the group, especially with his Stand ability being able to manipulate sand. As a result of his lack of involvement in the story, there are some fans of the show that believe that his addition was unnecessary. However, I disagree.

Iggy was never enthusiastic about the group’s mission to defeat DIO until he met DIO’s pet bird, Pet Shop. In this fight between Iggy and Pet Shop, Iggy doesn’t fight at all, rather, he flees into the sewers. This fight eventually leads them to a lake, where Iggy is forced to defend himself to prevent his untimely death. In this final act of desperation, his actions are progressive rather than reactionary because he devises a plan and takes a risk to defeat Pet Shop, rather than passively allowing the world to make decisions for him. Iggy could have waited for Pet Shop to attack first, but his progressive actions allowed him to win the battle because he subverted Pet Shop’s expectations.


Iggy’s Bizzare Adventure (SPOILERS)

After Iggy defeats Pet Shop, he has a flashback that takes a glimpse into his past. We learn that he was once involved in dogfighting, and reigned supreme as a warlord over other dogs as a result of his Stand. However, once Joseph and Avdol rescued him to use him as an ally against DIO, they gave him a new life where he’s showered with love. After this flashback, he’s realized how much time he’s wasted trying to live a life that’s free of conflict and worry.

After this battle, Iggy’s too weak to escape the water by himself and starts sinking to the bottom. Just before he’s about to drown, he is saved by a young boy who returns him to shore. Some may say that this represents a weakness in Iggy’s character, but I disagree. Since Iggy has finally come to terms with his mistakes and has embraced his feelings of vulnerability in his final moments, his rescue is representative of the consequences of being involved with the people you love in your life.

That boy was not just an ordinary bystander, he was the boy that was saved by Iggy in a heroic attempt to prevent him from being eaten by Pet Shop. If Iggy had allowed this boy to be eaten, Iggy would have to accept that his decisions were responsible for the boy’s death. Furthermore, Iggy’s heroism was rewarded because the boy formed a connection with him after he saved his life. When you help people solve problems, you form connections with them, and connections are what make the world a better place to live. Love is the only thing that will separate you from the outside world, as it is a very personalized emotion that means something different to everyone.

Iggy’s rescue is representative of his rebirth into a character that’s proactive rather than reactionary. His old self drowned in the lake, but his new enlightened self emerged victoriously. The battle wasn’t necessarily with Pet Shop, but rather, with his older self, much like Chuck Noland’s choice to leave Wilson behind in Cast Away.

We see Iggy embrace the pleasures of being a dog later in the story, when he helps Polnareff in the fight against Vanilla Ice, one of DIO’s minions. Unfortunately, Iggy tragically dies during this fight.

Much like the symbolism presented in the short lifespan of an octopus, Iggy’s death and short-lived sense of enlightenment can prove to us that it doesn’t matter how much time you’ve wasted in your life. All that matters is how you spend your time in the present, once you’ve found out where you belong. In the moments before Iggy’s death, his actions were far from reactionary. He saw the value of friendship, specifically, his relationship with Polnareff. As a result of the influence of this new wisdom, he used the last of his stamina and Stand Power to rescue Polnareff, helping him defeat Vanilla Ice.

Even if you spend only a few hours in enlightenment before your death, all that matters is that you’ve found what life means to you, so all of that time you’ve “wasted”, was not spent in vain. Once you find out where you belong, you won’t have to worry about anything else.


Conclusion


Throughout this article, we’ve talked about the octopus’ contribution to the world of storytelling, and an example of another animal that expands upon the themes that the octopus represents. What I want you to get out of this new series is that love is a very personal emotion. I will never be able to fully explain what Richard Parker, The Baron, or Iggy have done for my growth as a person. The point I’m trying to make is that storytelling is a phenomenal resource for self-growth. Since animals are amazing resources to make amazing characters, by using the tools they have to offer we can all learn how to make amazing films that all of us can love, and as a result, become more involved with our planet’s wildlife. Remember, you don’t have to believe what everyone else has to say about a film, all you need to know is that all that matters is what the film means to you. Only you are responsible for the decisions you make, and storytelling can be a great platform to help us learn how to make better decisions.

Author

Noah Veremis

Paving Your Own Path

Addiction and repetition are both plagues that can’t be faced alone. Many of us amount to living predictable lives because it’s not easy to pave our own paths. The truth is, there are no external sources in the world that are going to make you feel fulfilled in life.

That person you like is not going to fix you. Sex and masturbation will only make you feel lonelier. Drugs and alcohol will only worsen your mental health. Your minimum wage job is not going to get you anywhere.

Paving your own path isn’t easy, but, if we pursue what we want in life despite the obvious danger of doing so, the joys of independence will soon follow.

I’ll be discussing two films to help explain how we can take risks to live more fulfilling lives.

Shape of Water is a film that gives us an inside look into an unusual romantic relationship between a Deep One (lizard-like humanoid creature originating from Lovecraft) and a mute woman named Eliza. This film takes place in a mundane, uneventful, and unromantic world. Shape of Water uses this relationship to show us that love is the only emotion that separates us from everyone else.

The second film, A Street Cat Named Bob, records the life of James, a recovering drug addict trying to survive in a society that abandoned him. He ends up adopting a street cat who follows him on his adventures. After being taken in by an agency that helps drug addicts get back on their feet, his relationship with Bob blossoms as he learns how to trust people and become self-sufficient. James learns about self-sufficiency by prioritizing his resources to become a parent that his cat can rely on.

It’s important to understand the relevancy of building relationships with people you can trust. Part of the human experience is figuring out who you want to accompany you on your adventures. That means calculating who is going to respect your vulnerability, and who is going to take advantage of it.


Shape of Water

In Shape of Water, there is an overwhelming presence of greens in its color pallet. This film takes place during the events of the Cold War, so as a result, we see representations of some of the problems Americans were facing during that time. Racism against African Americans, Homophobia, and the threat proposed by the Soviet Union, were all problems that had become a staple of daily life.

Greens are used to represent a reluctant mindset of advancing into a more progressive society. The people in this film live very unromantic lives because there’s an underlying comfort in settling for something that your community has deemed to be acceptable.

The taboo nature of Eliza’s romantic relationship with the creature compliments this motif, as people aren’t ready to accept new ideas that they don’t understand. Furthermore, it delivers a message that explains that love is the only emotion that will separate you from the rest of the world. This message is demonstrated yet again by its color pallet, using interjections of reds amongst a sea of suffocating greens, to symbolize the beauty and uniqueness of Eliza’s relationship. This relationship emphasizes that if you want to achieve true happiness, you will need to create your own destiny and accept the responsibilities that come from constructing your own future.

For the sake of convenience, from this point forward I’m going to refer to the creature as “Jonathan”, named after Jonathan Joestar from JoJo’s Bizzare Adventure (for his unparalleled politeness, of course).


Green vs Red


The film’s opening introduces us to Eliza’s daily schedule. Every morning, she begins her day with masturbation, makes hard-boiled eggs for lunch, and goes to work.

When she comes home, she goes straight to bed, and the cycle repeats. These activities aren’t necessarily harmful to her health, but since there’s no sense of risk, her life is completely devoid of any excitement. Eliza is equally as guilty of being a slave to social norms as anyone else at this time.

There’s a pie shop called Dixie Dougs, right by Eliza’s apartment that she visits frequently with her neighbor and best friend, Giles, for some key lime pie. Although Eliza finds the taste of the pie to be repulsive, she orders a slice anyway because it’s “tradition” for them to order some every time they get together. We find out later that Giles also found the taste of the pie to be dissatisfactory, and would never make an effort to try another flavor. Being that key lime pie is colored green, it serves as another visual representation of this motif.

It’s not easy for people to transgress against social norms because there’s a sense of security and structure that comes with following the crowd. On the other side of the coin, there’s also a fear that follows this security, in that people are afraid to be burdens on their community and cause chaos. The human brain craves repetition and security, so when we do something that threatens that security, our whole life can turn upside down. There’s also the fear that if what we’re doing is going against social norms, we can start to think that we’re doing something wrong. After all, we’re acclimated to associating the majority with truthfulness.

However, after Eliza met Jonathan for the first time since she had such a powerful experience with someone special, she realized how much uniqueness had been missing in the rest of the world. By definition, she found out where she belonged, and only started to care about what actually mattered to her. When she returns to her apartment, she’s wearing a vibrant red coat, symbolizing her metamorphosis.

The contrast between greens and reds compliments the nature of this taboo and unusual relationship. Jonathan’s abduction from his homeland, and imprisonment in the lab, could be compared to segregation in society, and its discontent towards interracial relationships.


Cancel Culture

I’ve notice that in any culture, new problems and domestic issues will erupt within its communities, despite how much time has progressed since the previous century. These societies will develop empty excuses to justify its unwillingness to progress into a more enlightened society.

For example, during the period of the Jim Crow Laws (19th century to early 20th century), African Americans were often referred to as being more closely related to apes and monkeys, as presented in various scientific journals and philosophy books.

Of course, these claims are no less than ridiculous. Nonetheless, this supports my point that in many circumstances, people will do anything in their power to find any evidence to support their hypocritical and inconsistent ideals, values, and beliefs. We can see examples of this phenomenon today with the rise of cancel culture, an idea that supports the act of ignoring someone’s endeavors to defend themselves from an accusation in an attempt to drive them into obscurity.

The rise of cancel culture has brought about extremely disgusting behavior, as it has normalized the idea that someone should be ostracized from a society based a piece of evidence that is inconclusive.

For example, some radical members of the far left believe that any rape allegations against other individuals should just be considered to be factual, despite any evidence that supports the idea that the allegation may be false. Many individuals have been falsely ostracized because of this behavior, especially if these false allegations come from women.

In Shape of Water, we can see examples of this disapproval from society in other ways, such as Giles’ homosexual feelings being rejected by the world, and doomed to be exiled from his community.


The Rescue

Once the threat from the Soviet Union becomes is apparent, Jonathan is doomed to be killed to prevent the Soviets from sabotaging the project and using Jonathan for their own endeavors (Ironically, we learn that the Soviets make plans to kill him as well, to, “prevent the Americans from learning”).

After Eliza has experienced what true love feels like after living in a world that thrives in mediocrity, she knows that for her own sake, she needs to save Jonathan from his captors.

Giles initially disapproves of Eliza’s arrangements for a rescue plan. However, after his desires to find something special are chewed up and excreted, he empathizes with Eliza and joins her in the rescue mission because he’s tired of giving up on love.

Once you find out where you belong, you won’t have to worry about anything else. I understand that it’s scary to leave the security blanket of mediocrity, but once you find something so important to you that there’s no doubt in the world that you’ll ever want to do anything else, the notion that you’ll have to work hard for what you want won’t matter anymore. Find a way to use your passion as a platform to change the world, and you’ll be remembered for all eternity.


A Street Cat Named Bob

James, the main character in this story, is a recovering drug addict who’s given a second chance by an agency that helps recovering addicts get back on their feet.

After James meets Bob, he starts to learn the value of independence through their relationship. After taking on the responsibilities that come with being a cat owner, he starts to realize how much of his life has been missing. Had he not taken Bob under his wing, his platform to understand the value of self-love would have been absent.

This is one of the perfect representations of true love that you’ll ever find. True love is represented when both parties mutually respect each other and provide for each other’s needs.


Bob


In many ways, this film could be compared to Cast Away. In Cast Away, Wilson serves as a representation of Chuck’s past, so it becomes an essential part of Chuck’s retribution to leave him behind to reach enlightenment.

In the case of James, Bob is symbolic of James’ future. Since cats are often used to represent a motif of independence in storytelling, it’s not unreasonable to consider that Bob could be seen as a representation of the person James strives to be.

In the beginning, James resents the notion of taking care of Bob, but over time, he warms up to him. Eventually, there’s a point where Bob has become so integral to James’ journey, that there’s no way in hell that he’d ever consider giving him away.

As we observe their relationship blossom, we see James develop better self-help skills as he learns what resources to prioritize so they can have what they need to survive. James’ efforts to give Bob the best possible life are representative of James’ journey of learning how to love himself, so he doesn’t have to take drugs to feel satisfaction.

By the end of the film, he serves as a figure of hope for people suffering through addiction. He now uses the experiences he went through as a blueprint for people looking to learn how to love themselves and become independent. Considering that this film is based on a true story, it’s really just magical that his life played out the way it did.


James and Betty

Betty, James’ neighbor, is a character who plays a heavy role in his journey. They fall in and out of love several times throughout the film. Their rocky relationship serves as a testament to James’ process of mastering self-love.

One of my favorite aspects of this film is that it uses a lack of closure to signify the importance of self-love. As James learns more about the value of his uniqueness, his desperation to be with Betty diminishes. In one of the final scenes, after James has completed his grueling journey, Betty tells James that she’s moving away to Ohio to live with her family. Although James is upset, he knows that they both have different goals in life, and some people just aren’t meant for each other.

Neither James nor Betty know if they will ever truly be right for each other, but that’s the whole point. Bob taught James how to rely on the well of happiness deep inside his heart to complete his goals. In one scene when James is talking to his agent, he says “He showed me what’s out there”. There is so much to experience in life, and those experiences aren’t going to be just gifted to you.

Much like Shape of Water, A Street Cat Named Bob discusses how love can change a life full of mediocrity and unromantic repetition, into a life full of joy and opportunity.


Conclusion


Nobody is ever going to save you from the mediocrity you’re settling for. It’s all up to you to seek those opportunities that will allow you to live a more fulfilling life. Independence is the only way you will ever be able to achieve true happiness. There’s no reason for you to fear an opportunity. If you fail and you make a mistake, realize that making mistakes is how we learn to be independent. Furthermore, our imperfections are ways for us to distinguish ourselves from one another and help us establish our uniqueness. Don’t be afraid to take risks. You’ll be rewarded for your bravery.

Author

Noah Veremis

Let the Voice of Love Take You Higher

This tea is my own special blend. I can’t guarantee the taste every time.

Yoshihiko Hakamada as Baron Humbert von Gikkingen – The Cat Returns (2002)

Sharing your happiness with others is what makes the world a better place. Happiness shouldn’t be viewed as an emotion that’s exclusive to yourself. If you see happiness as an emotion that you only want to keep to yourself, you aren’t optimizing all of what life has to offer. Happiness is only worth feeling if you have the courage to share it with the people you care about. That, by definition, is love.

Take Bob Ross as an example. He wanted to create a platform for new painters to learn how to paint in an environment that was as inviting, so he created the television program, The Joy of Painting. All Bob wanted to do was share his passion for painting with the world because he wanted others to feel the same happiness he was feeling.

That is why God created us, because He loves us, and wanted to give us opportunities to feel happiness for ourselves. He created us because He wanted us to spread His love in the form of happiness to the people we love most.

I don’t know what happiness means for you, but I know that one way to find out the answer to this question, is to share your passion with others so that they can feel empowered by you to accomplish great things. When you do this, you’ll be making the world a better place to live. Not to mention, there’s no better example of true satisfaction than having the opportunity to share your happiness with someone special. To better explain this, I’ll be diving deeper into two films I have discussed with great enthusiasm on this blog, Whisper of the Heart, and The Cat Returns.


Whisper of the Heart

I’ve already made an entire blog post discussing this film. If you’ve been keeping up with my twitter account, you would know that I wasn’t entirely happy with how that post turned out. So I’m going to clear up a few things with the intent of explaining the strongest ideas that this film has to offer.

All Shizuku wanted in the film was to be with Seiji. However, great relationships aren’t formed based on how much you want something. If all you seek is affection, then your relationship likely will not last long. The key to any successful relationship is the willingness to share what little you have with this person, including your happiness. Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice what makes you unique to satisfy the other person.


What Does it Mean to “Share” Happiness?

You might be confused as to what I mean when I talk about “sharing” happiness. Living life as an independent individual is different from living life with a partner. When you’re in a relationship you serve as a moral support role for your partner, and vice versa. In a romantic relationship, you’re able to allow your partner to lessen the weight of your burdens. Your romantic partner is your biggest cheerleader. However, you’re still expected to retain your individuality.

In a healthy relationship where both parties retain their independence, they can each learn how to appreciate something that they wouldn’t otherwise in different circumstances.

For example, I don’t know how to sing, and although I love music, I’m not infatuated with it as other music enthusiasts would be. However, if I met someone special that really had a passion for singing and music, it would bring a totally different meaning to me. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to spontaneously form a passion for music, but I’ve discovered something beautiful that I would have never unearthed had I not introduced myself to this person.

Music means different things to different people. Think of life as a dictionary. For every word there is, there’s an X amount of people assigned to that word, which represents their passion. No matter how many people you talk to, that word is going to have a completely different definition once you move on to the next person. If you form a romantic relationship with someone, you get to experience the beauty of their uniqueness and understand why that passion makes them happy. Therefore, whenever they experience happiness, you can share that joy because you understand why they associate their passion with such blissful emotions. That’s really what love is all about.


Learn to Love Yourself Before You Love Others

Nobody can truly love someone until they learn how to love themselves. If you don’t have anything to give to this person you’re in love with, then the relationship will fall flat because this person is going to be doing all the heavy lifting. If you wanted to learn how to play golf, it wouldn’t be a good idea to come to me for guidance because I don’t know anything about golf. Therefore, if I tried to teach you how to play golf you wouldn’t learn anything. If I don’t have the knowledge that allows me to teach you about the sport, there’s nothing for you to gain out of the exchange.

Relationships work the same way. If you don’t know how to love yourself, what makes you think that you’re qualified to love someone else? If you lack the self-respect to take care of yourself, then that will reflect the quality of your performance in your relationship.

If you wanted to start looking for a new job, would you apply for a career that requires you to have a skill-set that you don’t have? No, because you wouldn’t get the job. Nobody is going to perform well at anything based on what they don’t know.

If you follow Shizuku’s example, then you would learn that by evolving as a person you can bring the best representation of yourself to the relationship. The more you have to give to a person, the more that person will learn from you, and the more that person will have to share and appreciate. You need to keep in mind that if you know how to take care of yourself, you will become more attractive to a potential partner. Nobody wants to be in a relationship with someone who has to rely on someone else to take care of them. When you’re in a relationship, you’re a partner, not someone’s child. You’re expected to bring your best foot forward.


Using Self-Love to Build Sturdy Relationships

I want you to take note that wanting to share your happiness with someone you’ve established a connection with, is completely different than attaching to someone in the hopes that this person takes pity on you, and fixes your problems for you.

Think of relationships as a bridge. You are only in control of what you build on your side of the bridge. You will be placing yourself in a vulnerable position by doing this, since you are trusting your partner that they will deliver a sturdy foundation. Of course, this requires teamwork, as you both need to build a stable connection that can support the weight of both of you. If you build a stable foundation, you won’t have to feel afraid of being vulnerable anymore because you can trust the other person to do their part in the relationship.

If you don’t build a stable foundation using your personalized skill-set, you won’t have anything to offer to the other person, because when the other person finishes their side of the bridge, the bridge will collapse if either of you attempts to cross. If your skill-set isn’t fit for building a relationship, you will be unable to deliver what your partner expects of you. Sometimes, we have to work on ourselves before we can become capable of participating in a relationship, and that’s okay.

If the foundation isn’t stable and the bridge collapses, you can use this failure as a learning experience. The great thing about knowledge is that nobody can take it away from you. After this failure, you can do some self-searching to find out what you could have done better. Therefore, you’ll be better equipped for a future relationship.

If all you do is attach to the other person out of your infatuation for them, you aren’t improving yourself, and you aren’t improving your ability to offer what you can to the world. At this point, you’re just hoping the other person will build the whole bridge for you. But, building a bridge by yourself is hard work that isn’t worth all the frustration and hardship to build, because all you did was build a bridge for someone who doesn’t appreciate your value.


How to Establish a Connection

You might be asking, “How do I establish a connection with someone in the first place? What should I say, what should I do, and what should I buy?”.

You have to think to yourself “What can I offer to this person?”. How can you use your skill-set in a relationship and how can you apply this knowledge?

If you try to aim your efforts at getting this person to like you, you’ll come off as desperate. Think of yourself as a shopkeeper. As a businessman, you can explain why your goods would be useful to them when they inquire, but it’s ultimately up to the customer to determine if your goods will be sold or not. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll make the customer uncomfortable and push them away.

If this person has already approached you, you don’t have to feel scared of not being good enough because if they decided that they didn’t like you, they wouldn’t have given you a chance in the first place. In Whisper of the Heart, all Seiji had done to gain Shizuku’s interest is present what he had to offer. He attempted to gain her affection or change himself to be fit for her liking.

If the person you’re interested in really likes you, all you’ll have to do is present what you have to offer. If you can prove that you have good relationship-building skills, self respect, and take responsibility for your actions, you’ll be seen as more valuable. If the person likes what they see, they’ll purchase your goods. If they don’t, that doesn’t necessarily reflect you. Sometimes it just means that you aren’t what they’re for in a relationship.

Now that we know how this process works we can talk about how to optimize your communication skills, to increase your ability to present your goods.

When you’re asking about their interests, it would be a very bad idea to agree with everything they say and gravitate to all of their interests. Even if it’s with good intentions, you’ll come off as fake and desperate. You want to present a truthful image of yourself. If your partner is questioning if you’re being truthful with your words, they probably won’t see you as a worthy potential partner. Remember, these are things that this person holds close to their heart, so please take them seriously. Don’t make them regret opening up to you.

Only ask questions that you actually care about the answer to. It would be a waste of time to ask a question just for the sake of conversation. That’s okay for small talk at the beginning of a date, but if you want to learn more about this person, you’re going to have to make your questions count. For example, you can ask them questions about the ideas and philosophies that they value most.

If somebody is interested in ocean exploration, you won’t be trying to figure out why ocean exploration would be interesting. Let’s be honest, everyone has at least a moderate amount of interest in what exists in the empty void of the ocean that we haven’t discovered.

You’re trying to figure out what ocean exploration means to them. Maybe they had a childhood experience with a dolphin and they’ve been in love with the ocean ever since. Maybe they were a victim of a shark attack and want to learn more about sharks to prevent further attacks on humans. Maybe they grew up living next to a large body of water and just naturally became fascinated with marine life, and want to learn as much about the ocean as they possibly can.

If you begin to show genuine interest in their passions, they won’t regret opening up to you because they know that you have an honest enthusiasm towards the emotions that drive them. If you offer the best version of yourself then you’ll have nothing to fear. Just remember that nobody is going to be perfect. Imperfections are what make us who we are and are reflections of our uniqueness. Don’t ever be afraid that you’re not good enough. You won’t know if you’re not ready for a relationship until you suffer from a break up that was caused by the consequences of your actions. Traumatic events like these are how we learn to be better, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you fail.


The Cat Returns


You could also equate relationship-building and self love techniques to Baron’s metaphor for making tea. It’s your special blend that only you know how to make. Sometimes you’re going to meet many people that aren’t going to enjoy the taste of your tea, and that’s okay.

If you can find the right person who will appreciate your blend, even when you make bad batches, you’ve found someone who you can spend the rest of your life with.

Your tea isn’t going to be appreciated by everyone. No matter how much you polish your ability to write, paint, or play basketball, some people just aren’t going to appreciate your blend of tea, and that doesn’t necessarily reflect you, it just means that they have a very particular taste.

Your relationship-building skills and your ability to build a sturdy foundation will only come into play once you find someone who enjoys the taste of your tea. All relationships start with a mutual interest. In the beginning phases of a relationship, both parties are trying to figure out if they are comfortable with living with this blend of tea for a long time. If you knew that you were going to be drinking only one beverage for a long time, you’d pick something that has a taste that won’t grow stale on you.

Sometimes you’re going to find someone who’s going to let you down, and sometimes you’re going to find people that will grow tired of your blend and move on.

I understand that losing someone you love is painful since you were shattered during your vulnerability. The only way you can truly love someone is if you embrace this person despite the unpredictable void of darkness that lies ahead of you. If you don’t feel safe opening up to this person after you’ve started building a sturdy foundation, it may be best for both of you to part ways.

Sometimes when your gut tells you that this person is going to hurt you, it’s an intuition that you have to trust. Our brains are conditioned to notice patterns in human behavior. If your gut tells you that this person is no good, it may be likely that you’ve subconsciously noticed a pattern in their behavior that is suspicious, and it might be worth investigating.

Don’t let any of this deter you from opening up to someone you genuinely like. Remember that you won’t ever learn anything in life until you have a problem that requires you to learn about something to solve it. Making mistakes and being let down is what makes life so amazing. If you open up to someone and you find someone who truly loves your blend of tea for what it is, you won’t have to worry about being vulnerable to this person ever again.


Conclusion


These films hold a special place in my heart, and although I’ve already talked about them extensively, there’s still more and more I learn from them every day. Human relationships give us the opportunities to evolve that don’t exist in traditional practices of self-love. Even if our vulnerability is taken advantage of when we open up to someone, we can always rest easy knowing that we can use this traumatic experience as an opportunity to grow and learn more about our relationship-building skills.


Author’s Note

I understand that I have talked about these films a lot. I also understand that most of you are used to variety when it comes to the content I post. However, I can’t ignore the feelings that are inside of me. I use writing as a form of expression, and I incorporate everything that I’m feeling at the time into my writing. I promise you that I am doing well, and that you can expect much more diverse content in the future. I write about movies to show the world what we can learn from them. If a movie I love has a lot to offer, I’m going to devote more of my time to discuss it. These two films really mean a lot to me, and all I want to do is share that passion with all of you, because that’s where true happiness belongs, in the hearts of the people you love.

God bless my friends!

Author

Noah Veremis

The Cat Returns: Becoming Independent

….That pain that I’m feeling has to work its way into the story, or else what am I doing?

Quinten Tarantino, interviewed by Charlie Rose

The Cat Returns is a “sequel” to Whisper of the Heart, acting as a representation of Shizuku’s story that we never had the opportunity to read. In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku learned how to hone and polish her talent and walk her own path. We know that Shizuku struggled with this. After all, she thought she had to rush her writing because she just wanted to finish it, otherwise, if it wasn’t finished, it wouldn’t have mattered.

When someone is going through the process of creating anything, especially writing, it’s likely that you’ll see reflections of their struggles and hardships in the final product. Writing is a form of expression, so someone ill-equipped to express themselves with words might write their own book to express their feelings and ideas through a story.

Since The Cat Returns is Shizuku’s book presented as a movie, we can see the struggles she goes through in the events of Whisper of the Heart, through the motifs and conflicts that are presented throughout the story. Taking this into account, we can make an educated consensus on what the film wants its audience to learn from the experience since Shizuku used her book as a platform to express the issues she was living through.

The film’s main character, Haru, suffers from a fear of becoming independent. Through the film’s conflict, she experiences the consequences of settling for only what’s given to you, instead of following what’s in your heart. Baron Humbert von Gikkingen serves as Haru’s mentor and the hero of the story. After they escape the conflict of the story, Haru finds out how to forge her destiny and find out where she belongs.


Being Manipulated


Haru is a young girl who is completely clueless about what she wants and who she wants to be. This vulnerability is taken advantage of by a mysterious cat who calls himself the Cat King, after Haru saves his son, Lune, from being hit by a semi-truck. The Cat King tries to repay her by giving her “gifts”, like turning her entire front yard into cattails and sending her dozens of gift boxes containing live rats.

After the Cat King visits Haru at her house we find out that the Cat Kingdom is a hidden community in the outskirts of the city full of sentient cats.

Haru’s vulnerability comes to bite her when the Cat King tries to persuade (or rather, force) Haru to marry his son Lune, who just happens to be the prince of the Cat Kingdom.

How does the Cat King pull this off? He sends one of his underlings to check up on Haru after she’s received her “gifts”. This underling displays a calm and happy demeanor as he speaks. In addition to this, he reacts with great distress after Haru said that she didn’t appreciate the gifts that were sent to her. This is one method people will use to manipulate you, by taking advantage of your kind heart so you’ll feel pressured to do what they want.

Often when people try to manipulate you to do something or change you into someone else, they’ll remember what you’ve said in the past and use your words against you, and persuade you that what they want you to do is “cool”. In some circumstances, they’ll even try to convince you that you said something that never actually came out of your mouth.

This persuasion finally reaches its desired goal after the underling says to Haru “he’s not just a cat, he’s cool!”. For someone as vulnerable as Haru, this type of persuasion works, because being married to a cat prince means that she won’t ever have to worry about anything, and all her needs will be taken care of. She could settle for something that she’s ultimately not happy with, and by doing so, she would never have to make an independent decision ever again. For somebody as young as Haru, it’s hard to resist that mindset. Are you starting to see the connections to Whisper of the Heart?

For a lot of us, myself included, independence is a scary concept, especially when we’re children. Becoming independent means that we are responsible for making our dreams a reality because nobody is going to do that for us. This why so many of us are stuck in minimum wage jobs and live in an environment where our needs are taken care of, like our parents’ house. For many of us, we’re too scared to take the first step because our sense of structure and security will need to be abandoned.

This is where Baron’s role comes in. Haru finds out who she wants to be all on her own through the challenges she faces, but it’s through Baron’s teachings that point her mindset in the right direction. Baron is merely a guide, not a crutch, much like a life coach or a therapist. After Haru is kidnapped by the Cat King’s underlings, she is sent to the Cat Kingdom, and Baron takes off after her.


Baron Humbert von Gikkingen

After Baron learns of Haru’s predicament, he assures her that once she finds out where she belongs, she won’t have to worry about anything else. According to Baron, once you find what’s most important to you, petty issues and other problems won’t matter to you anymore.

If you find that one piece of you that you love the most, you won’t have to search for external sources of gratification to feel validated. After all, if you know you have the confidence and motivation to take on the responsibilities of walking your own path, nothing will ever stop you from achieving your goals. This confidence will emerge inside once you find something that ignites that special fire within your heart. This fire is going to be represented as different things for everyone. It might be a sport, teaching self-help, motivational speaking, or even becoming a musician or programming video games. This is exactly what Baron is trying to communicate when he talks about finding out where you belong. You can use the word cloud exercise I mentioned in my last post to find out what you’re most passionate about.

Here’s an example of what that might look like. In the movie Cast Away, we saw that Chuck Noland was able to move on after finding out that his wife Kelly married another man after the events that took place on his island since everyone he knew thought he had died in the plane crash.

He knows it hurts, but he also knows that he has the confidence to walk his own path, so he doesn’t need Kelly to feel fulfilled. In the final scene, we see him in an intersection in the countryside, where there are plenty of different roads, or “paths” he can take. Any one of them would be valid, and any one of them would be just as adventurous as the other because nothing is holding him back.

Sometimes all it takes for us to find out how to appreciate life is a terrible experience that reminds us of what life is all about, which leads me to the next section.


The Consequences of Settling

Now, unfortunately, one of the harsh realities of life is that we will never be able to apply any of this information until we go through something traumatic or unsettling, where this information suddenly makes sense to us and holds more value. If you’re reading this, than you might have already experienced an obstacle that was fabricated from the mistakes you’ve made. If that’s the case then you’re in the right place.

For Chuck, it took the separation from his wife and seven years on a deserted island to learn how to appreciate what he has and practice self-love. For Pi Patel in Life of Pi, it took the death of his family and ending up stranded in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat with the company of a Bengal Tiger, to learn his life’s purpose.

In Haru’s situation, she had to experience the consequences of allowing people to manipulate you and take over your life. Once she made it inside the Cat King’s palace, she started turning into a cat and was given nothing to eat but raw fish. Baron ensures that she stays on the right path by saying “No Haru, this place is not for you”.

For Haru, this whole adventure was all about finding out where she belongs. Generally, people only ever learn about life until after they’ve made a mistake. If our brains have never experienced this type of hardship, it won’t mean anything to us unless we have experienced a problem where we can apply that information to solve it. Losing friends, ending up in horrible predicaments, saying something out of anger that you don’t really mean, and settling for something you don’t want, are all examples of what finding out where you belong is all about. Just remember that it’s okay to make these mistakes. That’s what learning is all about!

You should be noticing a pattern here. Everyone successful in life encountered an obstacle that forced them to take action. Failures and mistakes are a part of life, and we need them for us to grow. Don’t ever forget that.

In the next section, I’ll show you how settling for long periods can lead to the formation of dependency issues. You can use this information as a warning for what happens when you settle for anything less than what you want.


Dependency Issues in Modern Day

For people who are confused about who they are, they might resort attaching to someone they’re infatuated with in the hopes that this person can fix them, or stand behind a huge movement to feel like they’re taking part in something bigger than themselves.

In the first scenario, these people don’t have the confidence to pursue a passion, so they resort to settling for an unhealthy attachment to someone else in the hopes that this person can fix the problems that are deep inside of them.

Alternatively, they could also be susceptible to joining a movement or group to feel like they’re fighting towards a problem that’s affecting their culture or society because they don’t have any personality or uniqueness outside of participating in this group, it can be very hard for them to make friends. Both of these scenarios are symptoms of dependency issues.

In the first scenario, their mind sees the person they’ve formed an attachment to as a band-aid that will solve their problems. Their subconscious knows that they aren’t motivated or confident enough to pursue what they want on their own, so they’re hoping that this person can do it for them. They’ll likely be unable to feel happiness without this person because of this and can immediately feel withdrawals once this person has left them for an extended period of time. This could then lead to stalking behaviors, severe depression, and even thoughts of murdering this person so nobody else can “have them”.

In the second scenario, the person in question sees this movement as a way for them to feel like they’re doing something important. Since they can’t feel this sensation through their actions out of a lack of confidence, they might see this movement as a method of feeling like they’re participating in something bigger than themselves. This type of behavior can lead to discrimination of anyone who doesn’t support the group they associate with, or people who are indifferent to the group. We can see examples of this type of behavior in the LGBT and Feminism communities, where radical members have been known to alienate heterosexual individuals, and men respectively.

This radical behavior can bring the wrong impression to outsiders of what these groups are all about, and will leave a terrible mark on the people trying to make a difference.

In the next section, I’ll show you a method I use to learn from my mistakes by experiencing hardships that were my responsibility. You can use this method yourself to turn painful experiences into learning experiences to help you grow as an individual. After experiencing something painful, you’ll be less likely to settle after you’ve experienced the consequences of remaining passive towards the problem.


How to Learn From Your Mistakes

One tactic I sometimes use to help me make better decisions is to allow myself to be hypocritical. Have you ever been in a situation where people are screaming at you to prevent you from doing something, and no matter how much sense they make, you just can’t listen to them?

Here’s a scenario situation as an example. If I know my relationship with my partner is going downhill and I don’t have the heart or mental fortitude to end it or do something about it, I’ll say something like “I know this is going to bite me later, but I don’t want to deal with this right now. I have accepted the consequences that will come from this decision, and I know I’m going to be hurting, but I don’t have the mental strength to deal with this right now”.

I have found this tactic to be very useful in some situations, because as I said before, the only way we learn how to grow is by making mistakes. In this scenario situation, if I don’t have the heart to do something about the problem, I might be better off experiencing the consequences that will come from this situation with my partner, so that I can grow and learn how to be a better partner, even if it means ending the relationship. If we don’t make mistakes, then there’s nothing to learn from, and that, by definition, is perfection. If everyone was perfect, life would be boring, and everyone would have the same job, the same interests, and the same mannerisms.

If you know you’re going to fail, do it now and get it over with so you can learn from it and move on. Prolonging the inevitable will only shove more trouble and more pain in your direction. Secondly, people respect honesty. If you preemptively accept responsibility for the actions you’re about to make, even if you know it’s going to be at your expense, people will respect you for being mature, and they’ll want to be around you more often. After the conflict is over, people will be more open to help you and talk to you because you accepted the responsibility of your actions. If you radiate honesty from your words and actions, then the last thing they’ll want to do is barrage you with “I told you so” types of comments.


Conclusion

After watching these two films, Baron Humbert von Gikkingen has become one of my favorite characters in fiction, tied with Richard Parker from Life of Pi. He is so relatable and provides so much insight that it feels as if he’s talking to the audience rather than Haru. This becomes even more magical once you consider that this film’s story was created by Shizuku during her struggles to find out where she belongs. That’s really what the magic of storytelling is all about. As Quinten Tarantino says in an interview with Charlie Rose:

…When I set out to do it, whatever is going on with me at the time, has to work its way into the piece. It has to, or the piece isn’t worth making.

Quinten Tarantino, interviewed by Charlie Rose

Author

Noah Veremis

Whisper of the Heart: Scaling Your Passion

When we grow from teenagers into young adults, it can be very difficult to find out what we want to pursue in our lives. I think it’s important for someone to consider what passion they want to pursue, rather than seeking a career choice first. Making money is important, but if you’re not happy, then what’s the point? I think the better question is “what do I want to do in this lifetime?”

Even if you’re working a job that’s not ideal, once you take the first step towards your passion, you will likely find work related to your niche. You may be asking, how do I find these passions? What even is a niche?

There may be no better place to find an answer to that question than the film Whisper of the Heart. There is also a sequel called The Cat Returns, that expanded on the foundations that this film had laid out. Whisper of the Heart’s main character Shizuku learned about her passion for storytelling and writing after hearing an incredible story from a wise old man named Nishi. She also finds a creative drive to write her own story after meeting his grandson Seiji.

Whisper of the Heart teaches us that one of the best ways to find creative fuel for your brainstorming is through inspiration from incredible relationships. However, you have no one to blame but yourself for your failures. You will meet people that can help you accomplish your goals, but it is ultimately your responsibility to take the initiative and make the decisions to reach your destination.


How to Discover your Passions


The most difficult part of any journey is taking the first step. However, it may be difficult to find out which staircase will be the right one for us. If we made it to the top and found out it wasn’t for us, it would be pretty disappointing. So how do we uncover our passions so we can start doing what we love?

Well, there are a variety of ways this can happen. Sometimes fantastic stories can inspire us to create our own narratives in writing, as what happened to Shizuku. However, not everyone is a writer. People can obtain inspiration from many different things.

For example, filmmaker Peter Jackson often discusses that his rise to fame is partly due to his fascination with the movie King Kong (1933) in his childhood. As a child, this movie filled him with so much wonder and imagination that he sought to make his own stop motion projects. Eventually, as he grew older and wiser, he was given the opportunity to remake the movie in 2001. This film ended up becoming a box office hit, became a 3D ride at universal studios, and was responsible for placing him on the radar in the film industry.

In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku found a drive to write a story of her own after being introduced to one of Nishi’s many antiques, a cat statue named Baron Humbert von Gikkingen. Nishi found Baron at a tinkerer’s shop in Italy paired with a female statue. The tinkerer refused to sell them unless they were sold together. That is, until a friendly woman heard what was going on, and offered to buy the female statue so she could meet with Nishi. The tinkerer gave in and Nishi and the mysterious woman had fallen in love as if it were fate for them to meet. Unfortunately, Nishi was drafted in the war and was separated from his lover and never saw her again, or the other statue.

This fantastic story was partly responsible for inspiring Shizuku to write her own book, with Baron Humbert von Gikkingen as the hero. This is because stories are incredibly complex pieces of information that can covey heavy emotions and messages that can make us feel as if they were made specifically for us.

The first time I watched Whisper of the Heart I felt as if this movie was made for me. I have been confused for a long time and this film has offered some clarity on a lot of issues I have been going through.

Speaking of this, stories can even help us combat the issues we are going through in our lives since they can be very relatable to us. One example of this would be in The Monster Calls, where The Monster helped Connor grieve over the loss of his mother through his stories.

Now, if you’re looking for ways to apply this information to your own life, I would recommend finding a medium of storytelling that can apply to your specific personality and passions. If you like reading, that’s awesome. There’s plenty of great books out there that may be able to spark your creativity. Life of Pi, The Alien Shore, Pellucidar, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, are great examples of books that can spark endless amounts of imagination and philosophy.

If you’re interested in the history of our world, then you may be interested in documentaries. Although documentaries aren’t exactly a traditional form of storytelling, they still document an event, interesting person, or phenomena that have complex histories that can serve as excellent sources for brainstorming. For example, Elephant in the Living room is a documentary about the irresponsible ownership and neglect of exotic animals. After being exposed to such a thing, someone may be inspired to do more research and take up a career that allows them to take action to reduce the number of instances of this terrible phenomenon.

Some of you may be searching for inspiration in movies, but don’t know where to look. If that’s the case, there’s a social media platform called Letterboxd that allows you to easily search for films that you may be interested in and allows you to communicate with other film lovers. You can even search for lists created by other members that may be tailored to your particular taste. It’s also a great way to make friends if you’re open to reaching out.

I sometimes use Letterboxd as a tool to combat writer’s block. There have been some terrible days where I have found myself completely robbed of my creative juices. One remedy I have to get my brain flowing is step away from writing and watch one of the films on my watch-list. Sometimes I’ll see something that’s a total game-changer and could even help me write the project I’m working on at that moment. The truth is, storytelling is a fantastic tool to help you find your inspiration, but you’re going to have to find a medium that works for you.

In the next section, I’ll show you a more cookie-cutter resource I use to help me stay on track. This resource was also partly responsible for helping me find my niche in the world.


Brainstorming Exercise

One resource that I use that has proven to be very useful for me is a website called tagul.com. It is a word cloud generator that allows you to write down anything that you’re into. It enlarges words that are similar to one another. The generator will also enlarge words that are closer to the top of the list, which may reflect what means the most to you, as they were the first to come to your mind. This way you can visualize what’s most important to help you discover your niche.

If you’re stumped on what words to add to your cloud, you can use mine as an example. Don’t worry about your words not being “adequate” enough. Just write what comes to your mind. Please take note that my word cloud is likely going to look very different from yours. You’re going to want at least 40 words on your cloud for the best results.

For a quick exercise to get your brain flowing, I’ll take you through my thought processes after creating my word cloud. Well, after looking at this word cloud, I took a moment to visualize what all of this meant. After all, this word cloud is going to be a reflection of yourself.

After I created this word cloud, I saved it for future reference. I chose three words that were my favorite from this word cloud to serve as a representation of my niche.

Those words are:

  • Animals
  • Film
  • Solitude

I am a very introverted individual, so that may reflect why I chose solitude as one of my choices. I wanted something I could work on that I could put all of my creative energy into, and could double as something that could I could use to express my emotions and ideas from the movies I love. Hence, this blog came into existence. I also love animals, so I decided to use this blog as a platform to write a book discussing the importance of animals in the film industry. Once I reach my word count goal, I’ll collect all of the posts I made towards this book and edit them to fit the format of a book.

I could also use this blog as a platform to express other ideas that I’m passionate about, such as habitat loss, which I have discussed in my post “Can Humans Coexist with Nature?“. In the future, I could use this word-cloud to follow many other endeavors.


How to Polish your Passion


Now that you have found your niche and have taken the first step in your journey, how do you get better at what you do?

In Whisper of the Heart, Nishi owns a rock that contains a shiny crystal inside of it. Nishi says that you could polish the rough, outside of the stone, but what you’ll get would be worthless. The gem inside of the stone is purer, and there could be another crystal inside that gem that we can’t see. Any lapidarist will tell you that polishing stones takes work and effort. Different types of stones are much harder than others, and it can even damage or break your equipment if you’re not careful enough.

The same can be said for our passions in life. Sometimes, it’s not the fact that these things take work and effort that scare us. The scariest part is taking the first step. However, what’s even scarier, is knowing that you’re likely going to experience failures along the way. For many people, it’s an incredibly hard transition from childhood to adulthood. After all, it can be hard to reach for what we want because up until now, most of what we wanted had been handed to us. The truth is, all you have to do right now is take the first step.

Sometimes I get intimidated by the future because I envision how amazing it will be, and how much I have grown. One exercise that helps me mitigate this fear is to focus merely on the next step of my journey. If you polish what you know and make it better, you can take the next step, and so on and so on. Dreaming of the future won’t amount to anything, and it will only make your tasks sound harder than they actually are.

This is a trap that all of us have fallen for. We can be intimidated by the long and grueling road ahead of us, and we settle for what we have accomplished and pretend that this is enough for us to be happy. The truth is, for Shizuku, she has to traverse this journey by herself, and for many people in a similar position, that can be scary and devastating.

To help me explain my thoughts, I’ll use a similar situation from another film. In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Buck’s death in the climax was a reflection of Caesar’s transition to becoming a confident leader. At the beginning of the film, Caesar used Buck as a bodyguard of sorts to enforce his rule. However, Caesar strengthened his charisma and leadership skills to the point where he no longer needed Buck as a crutch.

In a similar vein, after Shizuku finished her first draft of her book and showed it to Nishi, she realized that she had just shown him the rough and unpolished outer shell of her crystal, and now she just needed to polish it until it’s just how she envisioned it.

It’s okay to show the unpolished, rough, outer edge of your crystal to the unforgiving world. When I started these movie reviews, it was so difficult for me to research films because I didn’t know what to look for. So, sometimes I would rely on other people’s analyses to help me put the pieces together. Over time, I noticed a pattern in the movies I watched. I noticed that if something is shot in a certain way, it could represent something. Or, if a phrase, theme, or color pallet is repeated multiple times in a film, it’s probably important and pertains to what the film is trying to say.

I could go on and on, but my point is, I got much better at understanding movies, and pretty soon I could form a consensus on a film all on my own. The biggest fear I had that prevented me from making content in the first place was the fear of a schedule. I thought that I had to write as fast as I could or else my content would be worthless.

This phenomenon is represented in the film when Shizuku confessed to Nishi that she felt she had to rush her writing because she just wanted to finish it. However, Nishi comforts her by saying that polishing a stone takes time and effort, and nobody is going to take your work away from you. You can spend as much time as you want on it. In my case, I eventually came to the conclusion that I was writing for myself, and not for anyone else, so I was going to write on my own time.

Even if it takes you ten years to finish what you want to accomplish to get to your finish line, then so be it. Just try your best and make sure you aren’t doing this for anyone but yourself.


Teamwork

There’s one last thing I’d like to talk about. Although you are fully responsible for following your dreams, you might find more success if you accompany yourself with someone who is also hard at work at doing the same thing. This doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships. If you surround yourself with amazing, hard-working people, you’ll start to adopt their healthy behaviors.

Sometimes when someone is being treated for an addiction, they may be advised to challenge a buddy who is also suffering a similar addiction. You’re more likely to succeed if you work together with someone else who is suffering from the same problem. Not only is there a sense of competition, but you may also find a sense of comfort knowing that someone is watching your back making sure that you are on track. You may also feel accomplished knowing you are helping someone go through the same thing you are.

Comparably you might find solace with a special person who’s watching your back, making sure you’re not beating yourself up. This person likely isn’t doing this for their own benefit. They’re in this position because they’re genuinely interested in you. In Whisper of the Heart, Shizuku obtains this insane drive to write a story because she wants to impress Seiji and share her happiness with him.

She sees his passion for making violins and takes note of his plans to visit Italy to serve as an apprentice to someone who can teach him more about his craft. When she admired his work and inquired about why he wanted to do this, Seiji was a little hesitant at first. If anyone else asked Seiji about his passion for making violins, he would likely be deeply offended that someone would ask such a question without a care of what it means to him. Let’s be honest, why would you care? Why would anyone want to know about the process of making a violin?

Shizuku asked about his passion because of her love for him and wanted to learn more about him, not because of interest for violins. Even when Shizuku expresses her admiration for his great work, Seiji responds with “How can you say that with such a straight face? Anyone can do that”. Shizuku beautifully responds with “Why? It’s what I think”.

After we see Shizuku obtain a drive to share her heart with someone special, we can see how she suddenly achieved a motivation to write a story. She admires Seiji so much that she wants to be at the same level as him. When Seiji comes to see Shizuku for one last time before he goes to the airport, she helps him push his bicycle up a hill instead of being dead weight. Shizuku yearns to feel the same sense of accomplishment from her writing, as Seiji feels with his craft of making violins. Once this equilibrium has been reached, they have become a couple that are empowered by each other’s strengths.


Conclusion


I understand that all this information is a lot to take in. If you haven’t seen the film, I would highly recommend placing it at the top of your watch-list to fully understand the information I communicated to you and form a consensus of your own. Once you take the first step, the rest of your journey is a cakewalk in comparison. It’s still not going to be without its hardships, but if you find something that’s really important to you, that’s likely not going to matter to you. And remember, if you ever feel like you’re isolated or trapped from the outside world, you are never truly alone.

Author

Noah Veremis

Ohana Means Family

This is my family. I found it all on my own. It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.

Chris Sanders as Stitch – Lilo and Stitch (2002)

When talking about film history, one cannot discuss the topic without mentioning the impacts animated films have had on the industry. Due to the lighthearted nature of these films, one of the most common themes in these films is the importance of family.

In any film, familial conflict can be used as an obstacle for the hero to overcome. Since everyone has experienced this type of conflict at some point, it can provide characters that are relatable and keep the viewer invested in the story.

I’ll be looking at three films that I believe have done a masterful job at accomplishing this. I’ll explain how these films accomplished what they set out to do, and how you can apply that information to your own life. Lilo and Stitch, Tarzan, and The Lion King have all used their respective familial conflicts in their story to leave impressions on their audience, all to phenomenal success.


Lilo and Stitch


In Lilo and Stitch, familial conflict is used to represent two ideas to the audience. For the film to keep its characters relatable to the audience, it uses a principle in psychology called Nature vs Nurture. This principle describes that your genetics is responsible for about 50% of your behaviors. Genetics can only be responsible for so much of your personality. Nurture, or the environment around you is responsible for the other 50%. The parenting tactics your parents use in your upbringing, the friends you make, the cultures in the country you live in, and the physical environment itself all influence what shapes you into who you are.

Essentially, the principle of Nature vs Nurture explains that no one is destined to be evil. If someone is brought up in an unsafe environment where crime is frequent, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will grow up to become a criminal. In the same vein, if someone is birthed from a parent that has committed unspeakable acts, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are destined to walk in their parent’s footsteps.

The second motif used in this film is the idea that people’s perceptions of you don’t define who you are. In some situations, if we are bullied frequently and treated like a punching bag, our insecurities can get to us and we can start to believe what our oppressors say about us.

The film uses a mischievous dog-like alien named Stitch, a creature made in a lab, born for the sole purpose of causing destruction. As we witness Stitch’s adventures with his new human family, the film suggests that the domestic relationships you have with your family, as well as the environment you grow up in, can have an impact on who you become in the future. Using this knowledge, we can prove that what people say about us isn’t always true, because no one is destined to be evil.


Nature vs Nurture

After Stitch escapes from the spaceship he was conceived in, his ship crashes in Hawaii. Hawaii is an island with no major cities and is surrounded by water. We learn that Stitch hates water, because his molecular structure is too dense, heavily impacting his ability to swim.

The motive behind this particular choice of a setting is genius, because if Stitch has nothing to destroy, then his destructive tendencies cannot live up to their full potential. If Stitch cannot fulfill his craving for destruction, then there is nothing to enable him to be mischievous.

We can see examples of this in modern-day, where children who were once victims of domestic abuse from their biological family were moved to a foster family, where the new foster parents were able to provide a loving and caring home for their child. It takes time for these destructive and angry behaviors to go extinct, but if there’s nothing in the child’s environment to enable these behaviors, then the child can change them into productive and positive ones.

However, the same can be said for the opposite side of the spectrum. Throughout the movie, it takes a long time for Stitch’s family to warm up to him, and at some points, we even see him suffering from abuse from the people around him. If someone is living in a hostile environment, they may learn hostile behaviors.

For example, when Lilo is trying to teach Stitch to be a “model citizen”, we see him play guitar for a group of people on the beach. People start to take pictures, and the flash of the cameras irritates him which enables his destructive behaviors, causing Stitch to destroy everything around him. As a result of his rampage, Stitch is abandoned as the paparazzi flee in fear. Since an individual’s environment plays a big role in who they become, events like this can become incredibly traumatic, which can become sources of bigger problems later in life. When Stitch made an effort to be likable, he made a mistake that pushed people away from him.

Because Stitch has the experience of this event in his mind, his willpower to be good will be weaker, because his mistake is deemed as a failure. As a result, he is swayed from further attempts to be likable as he has the experience of failing. However, everyone relapses at some point in their life, out of no fault of their own.

Despite all of this, Stitch’s family doesn’t give up on them because of Lilo’s family motto: “Ohana”, Stitch was showered with love in spite of his disastrous past.

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

Chris Sanders as Stitch – Lilo and Stitch (2002)

Lilo and Nani lost their parents in a car crash long ago. To them, their family is everything because it’s all they have. Children don’t like to be a burden on their families. So, when Stitch saw that he was causing problems in his new family, it proved to be too painful to bear, but, because he was showered with love, the pain from losing his family was enough to convince him to stay and be a part of a family he found all on his own.

Lilo and Nani had a rocky relationship even before they met Stitch. When people go through traumatic experiences like losing their parents, sometimes they can adopt aggressive and toxic behaviors to cope with their suffering. However, when Stitch came along, he taught them that no family is destined to be broken forever. If Stitch’s toxic behaviors could be changed to healthy behaviors, then anyone can achieve just as successful results if they are showered with enough love in a healthy environment.

Stitch was right when he said that his family was broken, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a family worth being a part of. Everyone makes mistakes at some point, but those relapses don’t say anything about their character, and if you embrace their mistakes with kindness and forgiveness, you can condition them to change their toxic behaviors.


Tarzan


Tarzan, although the simplest of the above-mentioned films, still has some ideas that are worth discussing. The first of which, suggests that any type of toxic relationship can be saved. The film explains this through the concept of destroying hateful emotions by working together to solve a problem.

The film also places a strong emphasis on the gravity of a relationship between a father and son. The film uses Tarzan’s rocky relationship with his father to explain his naivety, which leads to a conflict between gorillas and humans, causing violence to erupt.

This film uses familial conflict to represent the importance of a healthy father-son relationship, and what someone can do to fix broken relationships born out of jealousy and hatred.


Behavior Extinction

In the “Two Worlds” montage that opens the film, we learn that the same jaguar was responsible for killing both Tarzan’s human parents and the ape baby belonging to Kerchack and Kala.

Kerchak’s hatred towards Tarzan was brought about out by his past. This type of hatred can be seen today in similar relationships. For example, a person who had recently lost their dog may be very upset when someone brings another dog to the household. This hatred can be especially strong if the new dog has some sort of physical disability. To the person in question, nothing can replace the dog that was lost, and to bring home something deemed to be “inferior” would be insulting.

Another example of this type of behavior would be a child who had lost their mother, and his father comes home with someone else. Nobody can replace the person that this child had lost, so he might remain in denial for long periods, refusing to knowledge this new person as their mother. In some circumstances, if the step-mother’s behaviors are similar to the child’s previous mother, it may bring about feelings of hatred, because this new parent only reminds him of the mother he lost.

To Kerchak, nothing can bring back the child he loved. When Kala brings home a baby from another species, she expects Kerchak to treat it with the same amount of love and affection. Kerchak was furious that Kala thought that he’d be able to move on from from his baby’s death so soon. Not to mention that Kala brought home another baby and expected him to approve of the new child right on the spot. Now, to us, Kerchak’s feeling’s toward Tarzan can be seen as toxic and hateful. However, Kerchak refused to move on from his son’s death, and would refuse any offspring that wasn’t his son. People can remain in denial for long periods of time.

In many circumstances, the brain will do whatever it can to feel that it’s made the right decision. I’m sure we have all been in situations where we resorted to moronic and toxic justifications just to feel that we’re in the right. In some cases, we can hold on to these terrible justifications for long periods as we remain in denial. From Kerchak’s perspective, Tarzan isn’t worthy of being his son because he’s not an ape.

We can see this hatred in action as Kerchak frequently attempts to convince Kala to send Tarzan into exile. When Tarzan accidentally causes an elephant stampede, Kerchak claims that Tarzan’s mistake is a side effect of his inferiority and incompetence as a human.

However, in most cases, any toxic behavior can go extinct if given the right circumstances. The best way to solve a conflict like this is a circumstance where both parties are working towards a common goal. Later in the film, the jaguar makes another appearance, threatening the safety of the tribe. Kerchak and Tarzan work together to bring him down and prevent him from hurting anyone. The two work together again in the climax when the movie’s antagonist Clayton threatens to enslave the gorillas in Tarzan’s tribe. Unfortunately, Kerchak dies in the process, but in his last words, he passes the torch to Tarzan to be the new leader.

Tarzan’s actions were able to get Kerchak to see him as an equal, because he saw that Tarzan loved his family just as much as Kerchak did and wanted to protect it. When two people work together on a common goal, it removes any sense of segregation because they now see each other as human beings. When someone meets another person who can solve problems, the brain instantly seeks a relationship with them, because relationships with problem solvers are very valuable. Also, making friendships with someone who is enthusiastic about helping you with your own problems can be just as advantageous.

One great example of this seen outside of Tarzan is in the TV show “Friends”, where Ross and Chandler teamed up with their bullies to chase someone who had stolen everyone’s belongings in a hat. The scene is very comical, but it’s comical because it’s relatable. Afterward, they had become friends because they teamed up to solve a problem that affected all parties involved. It’s incredibly difficult to hate someone after they helped you solve a problem.


The Importance of Fatherhood

Because Tarzan’s knowledge of himself was so limited, he was instantly captivated when he discovered creatures that looked like him.

This is why it’s so important to have healthy relationships with your family. If Tarzan grew up with a father that showered him with love, he may have been more cautious in approaching humans. Tarzan didn’t grow up with a father figure to teach him about the value of his family, and what that will mean for Tarzan when he eventually assumes the role of a leader. Of course, Kerchak rejected Tarzan and never intended to give him ownership of the throne.

Due to Tarzan’s naivety, he didn’t understand the dangers when he sacrificed the safety of his tribe for his selfish desires of understanding the humans. Kerchak never taught him about the value of fatherhood, and the responsibilities that came with a leadership position, so Tarzan never understood the danger of carelessly bringing strange individuals into your home, nor did he see past Clayton’s treacherous agenda. Had he grew up with a father that taught him about the value of protecting his family, Tarzan may not have made such a mistake.

In Life of Pi, Pi understood why his father wasn’t showing much emotion once they left India because he knew that his father was staying strong so he could support his family. In a similar vein, Kerchak could have been a similar father figure who could have taught Tarzan about the responsibilities of fatherhood, so he could have understood why his father was being so cautious.


Lion King


The Lion King is similar to Tarzan in the sense that it emphasizes the importance of fatherhood, and explains to us why having a wise father is so important. Mufasa teaches his son Simba about the Circle of Life. He explains that everyone has a role to abide by. By making the most out of that role in your life, you have lived up to your potential.

The film also talks about more relatable topics, like learning how to adapt to your mistakes. This film uses familial conflict to represent Simba’s character arc as he learns how to readjust from his passive lifestyle and live up to his father’s teachings of responsibility.


The Circle of Life

In one of Mufasa’s teachings directed towards Simba, Simba learns of the Circle of Life. Mufasa explains lions eat antelope but when lions die, they become the grass, giving food to the antelope. So, carnivores like lions to respect the animals they prey on because if they eat too much food their prey will be driven out. Lions need to be mindful to respect the roles their prey fulfills in the circle of life.

This is exactly what happens in the aftermath of Scar’s rule, as the overabundance of hyenas caused the herd to move on in search of safer lands. Although lions do eat other animals, they still treat them with respect, as without them, lions would starve.

What Mufasa is trying to tell us, is that it is important to not only respect yourself but to also treat others with the same amount of respect. Everyone has a role to abide by, and you have no right to take that away from them. If someone is having trouble learning how to live up to their potential, you can help them. It’s not about making yourself feel better, it’s about making the world a better place. If you help someone with a problem, you’re helping them accomplish their goals. By helping someone accomplish their goals, more problems are being solved, meaning that the world has just become a little bit better.

The same can be said for the opposite side of the spectrum. If your journey to accomplish your goals is acted out of selfishness and obsession, you can end up harming the world around you and making your environment more miserable. Scar was so obsessed with his endeavors to become king, that he couldn’t recognize that he was too stubborn and unequipped to handle the responsibility. He didn’t respect the prey that lions need to survive, so the herd was driven out in search of better prospects. With too many carnivores and not enough herbivores, there was not enough grass for the herd to graze on, and too many carnivores for the herd to keep a stable population.

When the legitimacy of Scar’s rule was challenged, he was too stubborn to admit that he would have to leave pride rock for his kingdom to thrive. This is because he couldn’t admit that his actions had doomed everyone to suffer from starvation. In fact, Scar couldn’t become king out of his own ability. He had to kill Mufasa and send Simba into exile so there would be no heirs to take the throne.

Scar’s arc is similar to Gu-Kyung’s character arc in The Tiger. Both characters are so obsessed with accomplishing their goals, that in doing so they have made the world a miserable place to live in, by sacrificing the well being of others for their agendas.


Hakuna Matata

After Simba is framed by Scar for Mufasa’s death, he is sent into exile and is ordered by Scar to never return to Pride Rock ever again.

Sometimes bad things happen, and it may or may not be your fault. Regardless, there’s nothing you can do to change the past. You don’t have to apologize frequently or try to do good deeds to make up for the horrendous acts you have made. It doesn’t matter what you say or think, all that matters is what you do. After all, you shouldn’t base your actions in the pretense of avoiding the harsh judgment of others. Besides, once people see that you have learned from the consequences of your actions, the impact of those consequences will start to weaken.

If you fail to put your past behind you, you will only push people away from you who want to help you. This is represented by Simba’s exile, as he is afraid to return home out of fear of what his family will do to him.

After Simba met Timone and Pumba, he adopted a sedentary lifestyle where he ignored his father’s teachings of living up to his responsibilities. From Simba’s perspective, he thinks he can live a life free of worry if he ignores his responsibilities. Now, that may be true, but he isn’t leaving his mark on the world and living up to his potential. No one is necessarily “destined” to be a leader. However, no social structure can function correctly without a great leader. Simba knows deep down that he needs to dethrone Scar to revitalize his kingdom, but he is too afraid to face his past and accomplish his goals. If you have the opportunity to solve a problem or fill a position, and you don’t fulfill that responsibility, someone who is craving for that responsibility will take it away from you.

Simba eventually accepted that he had to face his past and take the throne away from Scar because he didn’t want his kingdom to be defiled by the likes of someone unfit to rule. Simba didn’t do it out of personal gratification, he did it to make the world a better place so the circle of life could be restored. When you’re a person who can solve problems, you can make the world a happier place to live in.

Simba’s rise to power is much like John’s character arc in “The Grey”, where John knew he had to be the rock and assume leadership over his group because he was the only one who was equipped to handle leadership responsibilities. John didn’t take that spot because he wanted the gratification, he assumed that role because he knew that without a proper leader, the group would not survive due to a lack of organization and morale.


Conclusion


In conclusion, a healthy domestic environment is very important for the mental stability of an individual. However, if said individual is brought up in an environment that loves them and teaches them about the world, they can grow up to be amazing people. Often our family is all we have left, and we will only ever have one family, so we should try and learn as much as we can from them while they are still here. Even if our relationships with some of these family members may be toxic, those relationships can still be saved.

Author

Noah Veremis

Why Do We Fear Death?

O’ Death, O’ Death, won’t you spare me over ’til another year?

John Cygan as Silas Greaves (Call of Juarez: Gunslinger – 2013)

Humans have coping mechanisms for pretty much everything. When it comes to traumatic experiences, these coping mechanisms can unfortunately prove to be counterproductive. For most of us, we are rarely ever prepared when someone we love passes away. The human brain will do anything in its power to avoid sadness. One example of this phenomena is upon the event of the death of someone you love, or even after a breakup.

I have never experienced this myself, as when I did experience a death in my family, I was too young at the time to comprehend what actually happened. However, I have experienced situations where my selfish desires to ignore my pain ended up only pushing people away who only wanted to help me. Often times, when we go through something that hurts us, we will do anything we can to stop ourselves from feeling that pain. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do to change the flow of time, and there’s nothing we can do to stop death from occurring. Some films have used this philosophy in their story, to great success.

The Life of Death, The Shallows, and Triangle all tell similar tales of individuals unwilling to accept the truth, and how they find that truth by letting go of the pain that is plaguing them.


The Life of Death


In this film, our main character isn’t an animal, but Death himself. We see Death follow a number of different animals. When he tries to interact with them, they die instantly. Death never fully considered the impact of his actions until he meets an elegant deer, whom he falls in love with. Unfortunately however, this happiness is short-lived, as it becomes clear that this relationship just won’t work given the circumstances.

Yet, even when the deer knows what’s going to happen, she still reciprocates that love even when she knows that by doing so, she will meet her end.

Death and his new love meet in a short embrace, then she falls to the floor at his feet, totally deceased.

It is a beautiful representation of the harsh truth of our short existence. Death is something we cannot control. It is an inevitable consequence of existence that every living being must go through. Death is only scary because we don’t understand it. Some people have gone as far to say that entire religions were developed, purely to stow this common fear by hinting at the possibility of an afterlife.

When we don’t understand something, we try to rationalize it. This, however, is something that can’t be rationalized. Every single one of us is going to die at some point. The only way to fight something that you can’t understand, is to embrace it for what it is, and accept that you are never going to understand it.

This could even be compared to Pi’s adventures with Richard Parker in Life of Pi. He learned that atheism was something that he needed to embrace. Pi knew that the only way to give to God every last drop of his faith, was to believe in him in the absence of evidence. To let your guard down and allow yourself to be vulnerable in the face of darkness and nothingness is true bravery.

The only way you can come to terms with death, is to respond with love, just like any other part of your life. Death is a part of life, YOUR life. If you want to love yourself, then you’ll embrace every step of your journey just as much as the last.


The Shallows


After a recent re-watch, I definitely feel that I was a little too harsh on this film the first time around. Yes, the exposition was incredibly rocky, the film re-used many of the same tricks, and some of the dialogue was cringe-worthy, but despite all of this the film managed to retain some intelligence and enjoy-ability. Although some of the themes presented in the film can seem forced through dialogue, at the very least, we can say that it works.

Nancy, our main character, is a former med student who has lost her mother. Instead of taking the time to grieve with her family, she aims to ignore her pain through the adrenaline rush of surfing. After she becomes a victim of a shark attack, she quickly realizes the consequences of her decision making.

Often times when we experience grief, we may try and cope by seeking external sources of comfort and gratification. For Nancy, the pain from her loss proved to be too much for her and she didn’t want to accept that her mother was really gone. So to cope with this grief, she hoped that the short term adrenaline rush from surfing would keep her mind occupied. Of course, not everyone copes through surfing. Another example would be an alcoholic hoping that he can use alcohol to remedy the pain of a breakup, or the loss of a loved one.

When Nancy arrives on the beach and catches her first wave, the calm tone of the film skyrockets to an adrenaline ride. We hear charged and energized techno music, as Nancy rides the wave and crashes back into the water over and over again. When she returns to the shore, the music stops immediately and we are met with an uncomfortable phone call with her father and sister.

To be honest, although this is not the best choice, it’s also not the worst. The awkward dialogue actually helps in this situation, because like Nancy, it makes us feel uncomfortable and we just want it to stop so we can return to the adrenaline ride we came here for. She hangs up on her father without warning because her family only reminds her of her pain, so she hopes that by distancing herself she can run away from that trauma. This is reflected when her father says “when will you come back?”, implying that she’s been away from home for an extended period of time. When you try to distance yourself from pain instead of letting yourself grieve, you only push people out of your life who are going through the same pain, who are only trying to help you.


The Attack

When she gets back into the water, things have changed. She tries to have fun, but as the film shows us, there is now a rotting whale carcass present in the water, and the color pallet of the film has changed to dark colors to accompany the sinister tone. Despite this huge red flag that she should leave the water, as she could be trespassing on a predator’s territory, she continues surfing anyway. Nancy’s mood has changed completely, as she is no longer able to enjoy herself. Even with this discomfort accompanying her, she still continues to surf.

When we travel through the five stages of grief, our coping mechanisms will start to deteriorate, and our ability to ignore our pain will begin to degrade. However, these coping mechanisms have proved to work in the past, so we’ll keep relying on them to run away from our problems. When we’re presented with red flags, we’re either blind to them, or will refuse to acknowledge their presence. Even when our reliance on external sources of comfort prove to be harmful even from our eyes, we still rely on them because just the mere suggestion of moving on can seem to be excruciating, much like an alcoholic building a tolerance to alcohol, but still continuing to drink.

When she is finally attacked, she rushes over to a small island in the middle of the water and has to tend to her bite wound and her mental anguish all alone. When you run away from your problems, you push people away and make it more difficult for yourself to tend to your suffering. People who have tried to comfort you in the past will not take your current cries for help seriously, as when they did try and help you, they were met with hostility.

Patching up a shark bite by yourself would be excruciatingly painful, but she must do it to save her life. It is going to be just as painful when you have to let go, but it is just something that you need to do, as this person is never coming back.


Triangle


Spoiler Warning

So, unfortunately, the only way I can discuss this film involves the inclusion of spoilers. The magic of the film partially relies on the mystery of what’s going on, and for a first-time viewing, it’s a wild ride, so I highly recommend you go watch the film, then come back here. If you’re confused as to the meaning of the film after your first viewing, this post can offer some clarity for you. With that out of the way, let’s get into the meat and potatoes.


In Triangle, we follow our main character Jess, as she encounters a mysterious anomaly in the form of a strange electrical storm, which leads her and her friends to a cruise ship containing deadly guests.

We learn that the cause behind these occurrences is hidden behind a foreshadowing in the beginning of the film. Jess had accidentally killed herself and her son in a car crash due to her inadequacy as a parent. Jess could move on and seek forgiveness in God, but her reluctance to move on paired with her selfishness of wanting to stay alive, prevent her son from resting in the afterlife in peace. The cab driver, whom we see after the car crash in the ending scene of the film, encourages Jess to move on from her son’s death so they both can rest in peace. Of course, she refuses, and asks the cab driver to take her to the harbor. The cab driver was presumably there to transport her to anywhere she wanted to go until she was ready to pass on to the afterlife, but Jess thought she could cheat death by boarding the sailboat with the intention of boarding the cruise ship.

After the sailing boat is destroyed in the storm, the group is “rescued” by an empty cruise ship. When Jess arrives on the cruise ship, she eventually learns that if she kills everyone on the ship, she can restart time back when the group first arrived. The two other copies of Jess that exist on the boat are a result of the time loop. These three versions of Jess all compete for what they think will get them off the ship, depending on what period of time they exist in from their perspective.

When the Jess we know and love is kicked off the boat, she returns to shore back in time before Greg set sail. When she kills her past self, who is abusive towards her son, she tries to convince herself and her son that she’s going to be a different person. Really, Jess hasn’t changed, because when this new version of herself is behind the wheel, she still causes the car crash to happen again, indicating her inability to see the truth. Before the car crash, Jess notices a pile of dead seagulls that were all killed due to her poor driving. She could see this as a warning, that she hasn’t changed, and never will change, until she moves on.


The Seagull

“Seagull” by fatedsnowfox is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

There is also a different group of seagulls that follow the boat. Either these are all the same seagull, whom has fallen victim to the time loop, or are completely different seagulls who followed each other to find food. Regardless, we know for sure that this seagull, and the seagulls that are found dead on the beach, all serve as warnings from God. Seagulls are intelligent scavengers, and will never take unnecessary risks unless the situation calls for it. Most seagulls can operate just fine scavenging off of scraps left by humans, and dead bodies. Seagulls, like many other omnivorous creatures, will follow one another in search for food. If an animal follows a certain path consistently, and doesn’t appear to be in distress, it could be a clue that they have knowledge of a reliable source of food or water. So, a seagull may take note of this and follow that particular gull. In short, they are a variation of a crow, raven, or vulture optimized for a city environment.

The seagull that follows the ship does so because he knows that food will be waiting for him on the cruise ship. I can prove this, because Jess retains her memories when she returns to shore. Given the behavior of the seagull, we can assume that he retains his memories as well. Although Jess loses her memories when she falls asleep on the sailboat, we can assume that the seagulls retain their memories, because no members of the crew show any signs of deja-vu or amnesia in any point in the film.

Because Jess knows that the seagulls will always follow the sailboat no matter how many times she boards it, she could take that as a warning that she is going to continue to make the same mistakes, because the seagulls will not stop following Greg’s boat until their food source is no longer available, and the cruise ship will not disappear until she decides to move on.

The seagull in The Shallows serves a similar purpose to Nancy. We know that the seagull has a broken wing that prevents him from returning to shore, much like Nancy who has an injury that severely hinders her chance of survival. The seagull can’t fix himself, and he will likely die if he isn’t tended to soon. Nancy uses her expertise in the medical field to fix his wing so he can have a chance at survival. Since she was able to move on from her mom’s death, she was able to recover and move past her guilt through her brokenness. Thus, she was able to save someone who needed her the most. Since she allowed herself to be vulnerable instead of combating against her sadness, she lived to tell the tale.


For Jess to acknowledge that she was wrong, she would have to admit that all of her previous decisions were wrong. She would also have to admit that although she loves her son, she’s the reason why he met his end.

Jess wanted to revive her son because she was guilty of how she treated him. Her guilt contaminated her judgement, therefore she desperately tried to convince herself that she could save her son from herself because it would be too painful to move on. As a result, she’s perpetually stuck in a time loop, forced to suffer for all eternity.

If she had the bravery to inform Greg about the incoming storm, she could have one last moment with Greg to enjoy her final moments on Earth before returning to the cab driver, and passing to the afterlife.


Final Thoughts


As for the afterlife, it doesn’t matter what Religion you follow, because it is ultimately out of your control what will happen to you when you get there.

As a Christian, I have accepted that no matter what I do, I will have had accumulated several sins in my lifetime upon my passing. Whether or not I deem that I am a good person, doesn’t matter. It is up to God and only God to decide what will happen to me. No matter how scary it sounds that I will never fully understand or know for sure what lies after my death, I can’t think about it, because as a human, it is something I am incapable of understanding.

When someone you loved is ripped away from you, there’s nothing you can do that will bring them back, so moving on is something that must be done. If you decide to combat your feelings and reject their validity, you are only going to push people away that are going through the same pain you are, who are only trying to help you. By the time you realize what you have done, it will be too late to ask for help and you will be more alone than ever before.

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Noah Veremis

Can Humans Coexist with Nature?

In the film Princess Mononoke, we are presented with a philosophical question: Will there ever be a future where humans and nature will live in peace? As vague as this question is, it would be an interesting topic to discuss. Is there any way we can artificially create a scenario that has the perfect specifications and environment for the world to live in harmony?


Princess Mononoke


In Princess Mononoke, there are three main characters. Ashikata is our lead protagonist, someone who seeks to bring peace between humans and the forest. Lady Eboshi is a leader amongst a small village in the iron-works. She wishes to kill the Deer God so that the Earth’s riches will be free for the taking.

Princess Mononoke (or “San” as her friends refer her as) wishes to kill Lady Eboshi because the wildlife that lives in the forest is slowly dwindling due to loss in habitat.

In this universe, many animals that live in the forest are sentient, with the only exception being weaker animals like rats, raccoons, and deer holding a primitive brain. Because many of the animals we see are sentient, they have the ability to voice their distress and act upon the destruction of their home. This means that these animals can feel anger, sadness, and sorrow, and, have the mental capacity to seek vengeance.

In this film, hatred can bring the evil out of you and turn you into a demon. Unfortunately, this means that animals in the wild will always be at a disadvantage regardless of their intelligence. If animals were to be gifted sentience, then they’d likely try and retaliate to the destruction humans are causing. Of course, this will only deepen the problem, as it will only spread more hatred, and enable both parties to keep killing each other.

There will always be bad eggs. Sadly, you can’t rely on kindness to achieve peace when you’re considering the entirety of the human population. It only takes one person to spread hatred into large groups of people. In Princess Mononoke, we see examples of this. When Ashikata first meets Lady Eboshi, she speaks of her plan to expand the iron-works and kill the Deer God. Since the seed of hatred has already been planted into Ashikata in the form of a parasite, even he succumbs to its influence. His arm moves on its own and attempts to kill her, but he prevents tragedy from occurring with his willpower, restraining his arm.

But not everyone has the will to resist being influenced by someone else. All humans are sentient, and we have a history of going to war with each other simply over ownership of territory, or over resources like oil and iron. If humans were eusocial like bees and ants, this problem may have been nullified, as we’d all be drones following orders from a queen, and there would be no chance of rogues separating themselves from the hive to follow their own agenda. Units of a eusocial colony rarely ever survive alone, making it the only successful form of communism we have seen in any species. However, this would remove our free will and we would no longer be sentient, totally defeating the point of the question here.

Humans are just so complex that not everyone can be trusted to follow a single goal. There will always be people who will destroy habitats of local wildlife populations, and there will always be people who will be negative influences, which will only breed more destruction. The animals in our world have no voice, nor the capability to retaliate to the destruction humans are responsible for. Even if they did have a voice, it will only result in the advancement of more hatred, and will only produce more destruction.


Planet of the Apes


If you want another example that’s a little more realistic, look no further than the rise of Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series.

In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, after Caesar has lead the ape faction to near-total dominance over the Earth, Koba stages Caesar’s death and ignites a war with the humans.

In Caesar’s final line of dialogue, he explains that although he did not start this war, he will be forced to participate because humans will not forgive what was done.

As I discussed in my analysis of Princess Mononoke, it only takes a few individuals with a lot of power to influence massive groups of individuals. Humans tend to follow whatever the group is doing, as deviating from social norms is extremely taboo, and in this case, could result in your death. In addition, the Colonel had so much influence with his charisma that he had the power to shape the minds of the masses to spread hatred and continue the war against the apes.

In fact, the Colonel actually has a few similarities with Adolf Hitler. Charisma really is the name of the game when it comes to a leadership position. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you speak with confidence and magnetism, it can be a lot easier to recruit people to your believe in your ideals. If that doesn’t work, you can always force your ideals using violence, which is exactly what the Colonel practiced. Whenever one of his soldiers succumbed to the new mutated strain of the simian flu, they were killed. If any one of his supporters were opposed to this practice, they were killed as well. This set an example for anyone seeking shelter under the Colonel’s shadow, showing that even unwilling individuals can be used to spread prejudice and hostility.

Not to mention, when apes assumed dominance over the Earth, they basically filled the role of the now nomadic humans, and as a result, nothing was changed. Sure, the Earth is much healthier because of its new inhabitants, but there’s no real peace installed in this new Earth. Humans and apes are still fighting each other over dominance and territory, so the same problems are still in place.


The Answer


Unfortunately, I personally don’t think humans will ever be able to co-exist with nature. For us humans to reach the outer limits of our potential, we need to explore, expand, and build. Doing this requires resources, and the only way to gather these resources is to plunder the Earth of its riches. This can cause exponential losses in habitat for wildlife. This can lead to lower populations, which then leads to starvation and inbreeding. Some animals also need very specific requirements to survive in an environment. Some only feed on certain plants, some need a specific humidity level, and some need large areas of space for territory boundaries. When humans destroy habitats, these animals may also exhaust themselves looking for a new suitable home, or might killing each other over a lack of space for territory.

This doesn’t mean that life is all doom and gloom. There are plenty of amazing instances of people creating zoos and wildlife reserves that accept individuals who were inept to live in the wild. Sometimes, people raise pets that deem to become too much of a hassle to take care of and release them into the wild, where they are unprepared to take care of themselves.

There are also some people who have extensive knowledge of the care requirements for exotic animals and have the ability to take care of injured individuals and nurse them back to health so they can be sent back into their habitat, ready to roam free again.

Emily Roberts, the creator of the YouTube channel Snake Discovery, noticed an opportunity for her passion for exotic animals. She has used her channel’s growth to educate communities on the proper care procedures for exotic animals like large reptiles, spiders, and amphibians. Her channel expanded into a massive business, with her pet alligator Rex, whom she recovered from someone ill-prepared to care for her, is Snake Discovery’s mascot of sorts. Rex’s development was permanently stunted, so she would not survive very long in the wild. Emily uses her videos with Rex as a warning to anyone wanting to own an animal for prestige purposes, as exotic animals like alligators take extensive care and effort on the human’s part to keep them healthy.

Bob Ross, a painter that hosted the TV program The Joy of Painting, often recalled instances from his life where he would nurse injured animals back to health so they could enjoy life in the wild again. He has even brought some of these animals on the show who interacted with him while he was painting. Although he is now deceased, his TV program has since exploded in popularity, and millions of people are exposed to his kind deeds and are encouraged to replicate them.

There are also certain areas like national parks, that give wildlife free reign over their own space, completely free and away from human populations. Ecotourism is a method that can be employed for people to safely observe these animals in their natural environment. The funds from these tours are then re-routed to conservation efforts.

There have also been successful awareness campaigns and fundraisers to increase the quality of life for Earth’s other inhabitants. Team Trees, a fundraiser created by YouTube personality Mr. Beast, is a fundraiser specifically aimed at replanting trees that have been lost from human construction. It was created on October 25th, 2019, and it has since planted over 22 million trees across the globe.

One last example I will mention, that just so happens to be one of my personal favorites, is For the Love of Primates. It is an organization that provides sanctuaries for primates that have been retired from research and experimentation in laboratories, and individuals that have been previously kept as pets. However, I don’t want to imply that animal experimentation should be strictly forbidden. Some animals can be incredible resources for researching often fatal diseases that intensely affect humans and even other species.

Speaking of experimentation and research, animals have been proven to even help human populations as well.

According to Neal K. Klapp, who is Professor of Pathology at the University of Tennessee Medical Center at Knoxville, the Cotton Top Tamarin is one of the most important resources we have in researching colon cancer in humans, which happens to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States. The procedures for these experiments are relatively safe on these individuals, and the disease itself is much less severe for these animals than it is for humans. This research also gives us the opportunity to revitalize the population of this endangered species.


Conclusion


In summary, I don’t believe that humans can coexist with nature, as sentience and free will are breeding grounds for hatred in especially disturbed individuals who will only breed more destruction. However, there is still potential for humans to form lasting bonds with individual animals that can be used to educate communities and provide these animals with homes where they will be happy for the rest of their lives. If you enjoy this type of content, consider subscribing to my newsletter so you never miss another post from me.

The Tiger: The Danger of Obsession

“Amur tiger portrait…” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Tiger is a film set in 1925 Korea while it is under Japanese occupation. The Government official in charge of this particular area orders that the last remaining tiger is killed. The film uses tigers as a representation of the degeneration of humanity, and the corruption and greed that follows its absence. Simply put: When something becomes so important to you that it devolves into an unhealthy obsession, it is likely that your sense of morality will decline as nothing else in the world will matter to you.


The Degradation of Humanity


In the film, there are two characters who are polar opposites to each other. Our main character Chun Man-Duk is a hunter who lost his wife in the search for this infamous tiger, otherwise known as the Mountain Lord. Instead of taking it out on the tiger, he realized that the only purpose a tiger has in life is to kill. To expect that it would be capable of anything else would be naive, so he had no reason to hate, as there was no particular interest to attack his family. He grieved over her death, learned from his ignorance, and moved on.

Gu-kyung is an entirely different beast. He has been a hunter all his life, but we don’t learn till later that his moral compass has always been in the dark even before he met the Mountain Lord. Early in Chun-man-duk’s hunting career, he kills a female tiger, unbeknownst to him that she was a mother of two cubs. Gu-kyung insists that they should kill the cubs too, but Chun-man-duk stops him, implying that even as a hunter there are boundaries that aren’t meant to be crossed.

We learn later that one of these cubs grew up to become the Mountain Lord, and even after having his mother being torn away from him at a young age, he doesn’t hold any grudges against the man who killed her. The film uses the relationship between these three characters to tell the story.


Hatred Birthed from Obsession

The same day that Chun-man-duk’s wife was killed, Gu-kyung was there hunting with him. Gu-kyung never learned from his mistakes that day, even after dozens of men were killed in front of his eyes.

Gu-kyung was already obsessed with his career of hunting tigers. When something becomes this integral to your personal mission, nothing else will matter to you. When the Mountain Lord attacked him and killed many of his colleagues his moral compass was already in the dark, so he didn’t have the emotional intelligence necessary to realize that it wasn’t the tiger’s fault. He took the attack as a personal vendetta against his character. Gu-kyung obtains a massive scar across his face as a result of this attack, a reflection of his inability to grow even when the answer is imprinted directly on his face.

Gu-kyung’s actions throughout the rest of the film become eviler and eviler as time goes on. From his perspective, killing this tiger that wronged him is so important to him that he has become self-aware of his actions. He knows that his wrongdoings will end up getting other people killed and will only cause more tragedy. He uses troops that the Governor provides to him as bait so he can enact his plan. Even when his plans go south, he still insists that the tiger be killed.

Perhaps Gu-kyung’s darkest moment is when he persuades Seok, Chun-man-duk’s son to join the hunt. In actuality, he only wants Seok present so that Chun-man-duk follows out of fear for his son’s safety, so that he may join the hunt as well, as he knows where the tiger’s trails are located.

When the tiger starts taking lives at the scene, Seok watches in horror. After he is inevitably torn to shreds, he begs for his life at the mercy of Gu-kyung. The Mountain Lord’s death is so important to Gu-kyung, that he leaves Seok behind while he searches for the tiger, only for Seok to be taken away and eaten by wolves who are attracted to the rancid corpses.

We can see how far this quest for revenge has taken Gu-kyung. His right-hand man is always by his side and constantly challenges his decisions out of the concern for his best friend, hoping that he may be able to dissuade him from the path of darkness. Unfortunately, even with this man at Gu-kyung’s side, he is unable to understand the value of friendship because he can’t fathom wasting any time that isn’t used to find and kill the Mountain Lord.

For Gu-kyung, his grudge against the Mountain Lord got him killed, as his hatred made him blind to his lack of success and his lack of understanding for the Mountain Lord’s superior wit and hunting prowess.


Examples of Obsession Today

In my own experience, I was involved in a similar, but much less brutal situation. I was in a relationship with this woman I was knees-deep in love with. Deep down, I knew the relationship was going to end eventually, but I was too blind to understand that it was my obsession for this person that pushed me away from her more than anything.

It was such a priority to me that we should stay together, that as a result, I no longer cared about how she was feeling, and the only thing left that mattered to me was the label of being in a relationship. I didn’t want to be alone, because I had a tendency of attaching to people in the hopes that this person could fix the problems that were deep in my subconscious. Eventually, I became so obsessed, that I would single out any of her male friends that got “too close”, and would forbid her from even laying eyes on them.

It had become such an issue that a deep hatred had arisen for one of these men as a consequence of my obsession with this relationship. I hated this person so much that I wouldn’t even entertain the idea that other people may be hurting as a result of my actions. By the time I realized what I had done, it was years later, far too late to do anything about it.

Another example that can be seen today, is racism. Sometimes, when someone from an ethnicity is being continuously discriminated against, they will become so obsessed with the notion of defending his/her race, only to have an inner hatred grow inside them aimed at individuals labeled as “oppressors”. Of course, this cycle of hypocrisy happens all the time. Sometimes, people can be so enthralled with hatred that nothing else will matter to them, and they will start to label simple misunderstandings and mistakes as an attack on their ethnicity.

We can see similar examples today in the Black Lives Matter movement, where people have become so engrossed in the movement that they lose the self-awareness required to see through their hypocrisy when they start rioting and discriminating against other races. This only makes the problem worse and doesn’t help the people practicing legitimate protests to raise awareness of racism.

Examples like these, unfortunately, occur as a result of a lack of self-awareness and self-confidence. Some people don’t have the motivation, nor do they know any self-love practices to help them reach their self-actualization process. As a result, they may resort to relying on external sources to help them feel fulfilled. By standing behind a movement, it gives them the illusion that they’re doing something productive and working towards a goal. Subsequently, they will lose any sense of uniqueness. In these types of situations, since they’re relying on an outside source for the fulfillment, they aren’t providing themselves that sense of achievement so they lose their personality’s “signature”.

To them, it doesn’t matter if the feeling is artificial. As a person who’s been in a similar situation where I relied on an outside source (a partner) for gratification, losing that gratification meant that I would have to provide myself that gratification. In the Hierarchy of Needs, basic essentials like food and water are at the bottom, whereas more complex needs like love, affection, and the self-actualization process are near the top. The danger here is that if you’re not equipped to provide these needs to your brain by yourself, the brain will look elsewhere to find a substitute. The brain needs these essentials to stay healthy, so if you don’t provide yourself these things, you will likely develop dependency issues.


The Domino Effect

When an obsession becomes powerful enough like in Gu-kyung, it can bring the evil out of others and create a chain reaction.

To help bring the Mountain Lord out of hiding, Gu-kyung kills his mate and his cubs and uses his deceased cubs as bait to lure the Mountain Lord out of his den.

After he has had everything taken away from him, the Mountain Lord has nothing left to lose and goes on a killing spree when he finally comes face to face with the troops sent to track him. Of course, this is out of no fault of his own, as the Mountain Lord would likely have been found eventually, so a confrontation like this was going to happen whether he liked it or not.

The point is, is that both the Governor and Gu-kyung’s obsessions were so strong that the Mountain Lord had no choice but to kill everyone on sight. Sometimes in life, someone’s terrible actions become such a problem that it will become mandatory for the recipient to do terrible things, whether it be for their survival, or out of self-respect. The whole point is that it was never necessary for the Mountain Lord, or any creature for that matter to kill this many people. How complicated and evil must an obsession become for it to be necessary to take this many lives in defense?

Gu-kyung even persuades the Governor to hire artillery troops to use dynamite to destroy the forest that the Mountain Lord lives in so they can flush him out of hiding. To symbolize the disrespect to the Mountain Lord’s innocence, the film shows these troops killing every animal that flees from the destruction in response to all the racket. As if it were a chopping block, the deer who flee from the destruction are immediately killed as they are shot one by one. These deer have no way of escaping or defending themselves and are killed for perceivably no reason.

When these troops come face to face with the Mountain Lord they arrange a shooting formation as one final attempt to end his life. These troops have a clear shot at the tiger, but all of the shots miss. This is a symbolization of their blindness to what their hatred has done to their judgment. In this final confrontation, Gu-kyung meets his end. His hatred brewed to a boiling point and become so substantial that it was the reason behind his demise.


The Aftermath


In one of the final scenes in the film, the Mountain Lord and Chun-man-duk meet one last time before their final showdown. They both understand that this cycle of hatred is only going to stop when they’re both dead. The Governor is too blind to understand that tigers are necessary for the food chain to stop wolves and deer from overpopulating.

If the Mountain Lord is killed, Chun-man-duk will continue to be affected as he will likely be forced again to assist in the Governor’s hatred-fueled endeavors. If both of them are killed, even if the hatred continues they will both be dead, so neither of them will have the pleasure of witnessing any more of mankind’s discrepancies, nor will they have any more of what little they have left taken from them.

After they are both killed, we see flashbacks of their lives before the Japanese occupation. Chun-man-duk’s wife is pregnant and they are happily married, and the Mountain Lord is still a cub enjoying his time with his mother. Obsession and hatred don’t help anyone and they don’t add to the enjoy-ability of life. Now that the two are dead, they can finally live in the afterlife in peace.


Conclusion


In summary, obsession is a human issue that will remain prevalent until the demise of the human race. The only thing we can do to combat it is to respond with kindness and peacefulness. The brain will only remain hostile if the opposition is remained labeled as a threat. If the opposition takes a peaceful response, then it may serve as a wake-up call for the person in question. If their hatred continues to be aimed at someone who’s actions display their innocence, the situation may bring out their humanity and help them on the path to understanding. This film perfectly encapsulates the dangers of obsession, and what it can do to impact someone’s judgment, in turn encouraging them to do horrible things. If you particularly enjoy this type of content, consider subscribing to my mailing list so you never miss another blog post.

Author

Noah Veremis

Keeping a Cat’s Eye on the Film Industry

“Molly the cat” by owenwilliams95 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Cats have always been an intriguing presence in films around the world. They often accompany elements of mystery, morbid curiosity, and death. Cats can be great mediums for darkness as we as a species have spent little time in their presence, and aren’t fully domesticated, unlike dogs. Films like Cat People, Leopard Man, The Voices, and Life of Pi are some examples of films that explore man’s fear of the unknown, and how our rejection to understand the things that scare us is our biggest downfall.


Expecting Trust in Darkness


Humans have a track record of investing faith and trust into something that is not going to reciprocate that trust. The human brain’s biggest craving is to feel secure. When we expect love from darkness, it is because we are trying to obtain that security by being in control. However, we have control over very little in our lives.


The Tiger

In Life of Pi, this message is represented with Pi’s lack of understanding of himself and the world and therefore expects love and affection to come from everything he comes across. When he reunites with Richard Parker after his ship sinks, he is painfully reminded of what his father was trying to teach him.

Tigers are powerful and dangerous animals, but they are also prideful and confident. In John Vaillant’s novel “The Tiger”, he recalls an event where a single Amur tiger had over 500 human kills to its name. When a man named Vladimir Markov stole a tiger’s kill and shot it when it retaliated, the tiger became too slow from his injury to pursue his natural prey.

Humans don’t have the proper body type to navigate through the snow at any speed faster than a snail’s pace. In the snowy mountains of Russia, when this tiger was too slow to hunt its usual prey, it had no choice but to start hunting men. Tigers are resourceful, and they take great pride in what they do. To expect the same amount of love from a dog to come out of a tiger would be naive and will do nothing but anger the tiger as it would be disrespectful to his ego.

Now, Richard Parker was a Bengal tiger, but John Vaillant’s representation of tigers does nothing but add to the mythology and legend tigers have to their name.

There was one scene in the book of Life of Pi that was in the movie but touched upon very briefly, and it perfectly represents man’s relationship with tigers.

When Pi climbs aboard his lifeboat, he sees Richard Parker struggling to make his way to the boat. Pi doesn’t see a soulless tiger, he sees an animal fighting for his life. He fires off his whistle and throws his lifebuoy ring into the water while egging him on to keep his head above water. Just before he pulls him aboard, he hears himself say “We will be together!”

After hearing himself speak, he realizes the horror of what he has just brought onto himself. He has just brought a man-sized carnivore onto the boat, who has no purpose aside from consuming living things. He recalls something his brother Ravi said to him long ago “You’ll be the next goat”, and jumps overboard.

Humans often invest their trust in things that normally should be huge red flags. In my personal experiences, I have found myself investing trust in people who obviously had ulterior motives, and by the time I realized, it was too late. I had invited a 600-pound tiger onto my boat, without realizing what I was getting myself into. Before I could realize what I had done, I had already been manipulated, taken advantage of, and pushed around.

We often are too afraid to think that there may be darkness in our future because we want to believe that everything is going to be okay. Unfortunately, this is how we run into obstacles that may become too complicated out of the lack of ability to realize our stubbornness.


The Danger of Naivety


Humans, especially in the time period of these films, have had a consistent lack of attention and understanding of mental illness, irrational fears, and the tumors they can grow into if they are allowed to grow. No-one wants to believe that these internal evils can grow into a problem. So, we unknowingly let them into our home and let them settle in.


The Leopard

“DSC_5501” by Arno Meintjes Wildlife is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Leopard Man

The leopard in many films is used as a symbol of mysteriousness and often follows a hidden well of evil.

In Leopard man, Jerry Manning decides to help out his friend Kiki, who is a nightclub singer. Her act is being dwarfed by another woman, Clo-Clo who is an obnoxious, flamboyant dancer. Jerry comes up with a brilliant idea to bring a black leopard to Kiki’s show.

Unfortunately, Clo-Clo antagonizes the leopard before Kiki can use him to spice up her show, and the cat escapes and murders a young woman in the process.

What we don’t know, is that the next series of murders following the leopard attack were not caused by the leopard, but by a man disguising his killings to make it seem as though they were caused by a big cat. No one suspects that the killings could be caused by an actual person because no one wants to believe that evil could be lurking right in front of our noses.

People excuse the leopard for the killings because he is scared, and doesn’t know any better. Nobody takes Jerry seriously when he starts to consider that a man could be the murderer, and because the people in this world the movie has built are so naive, no one is looking for a suspect.

But what about the killer? In the end, Jerry’s prediction had been confirmed to be true. Why does the killer not get the same treatment? Couldn’t we say the same for him, that he doesn’t know any better? At the end of the film, he is shot and killed by a police officer in an impulse of disgust and rage.

This theme is reflected through Clo-Clo’s interactions with a fortune teller. In the fortune teller’s deck, the ace of spades is the symbol of death. This card frequently comes up, no matter how many attempts are made. Instead of taking this prediction seriously, she keeps trying, insisting that she had made a mistake because she was too naive to think that something like this could happen to an innocent person. Realistically this is nothing more than a fortune teller’s game, but it works with the grand scheme of the film, as Clo-Clo meets her untimely demise shortly after the ace of spades is revealed.


Cat People

“Blackys profile” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

A similar outline is used in a film called Cat People, where a beautiful woman Irena fears that she may have ties to her ancestors, who were evil witches. The film suggests that long ago in Serbia, King John had driven out an evil cult of people who could turn into vicious and ravenous cats. Most of them were dispatched, but according to this legend, a few of them survived and repopulated.

Irena’s to-be husband assures her that these stories have no real threat to reality. Deep down Irena knows who she really is, and she’s afraid that if she allows someone she loves to get too close, she could become a threat to this person.

Irena’s dilemma is frequently referred to as a mental illness. People who are grotesque and diseased scare us because they deviate from social norms. When we see behavior that contradicts what we are used to seeing, it scares us because we’ve never seen it before. For the brain, it is safer to assume something is dangerous if we don’t understand it. If we assume it to be a threat, that ensures our survival, should the subject turn out to be a hazard.

Take somebody with a phobia. Sure, a fear of doors, or spiders, or even dogs may seem irrational to us, but to them the fear is real. Imagine if you had a fear of spiders. Imagine that you’re in a car and the sight of a spider is so traumatic for you that your immediate reaction is to jump out into oncoming traffic, and your friend’s only reaction is to laugh at you. How would you feel? To Irena, these fears are real, but no one takes them seriously, so they start causing problems.


Devolution

Irena frequently visits a leopard caged in a zoo throughout the course of the film. The zookeeper says that the monkeys get all the happy customers, but no one comes to see the panther. His only justification for this is that these cats are monstrous man-eaters who are only capable of evil. Has this cat done anything wrong? Is it the cat’s fault that he is a predator? What has this particular cat done to deserve such a treatment? Cats are carnivores, and it would be naive to believe that they’d be capable of anything less. What are you to expect when you approach a predator in the wild? You don’t have to love the animal, but you can at least respect it.

When Irena seeks out a therapist, she believes that she can’t be helped. People aren’t the problem, she is. She thinks that fate is out to get her by placing her in the bloodline of the cat people. The only person that can help her, is herself. The leopard has already accepted what God meant for him to be, and Irena didn’t think she was qualified to be no more complex than this leopard at the zoo.

The problem with this thought process is that cats aren’t sentient, and can’t reason. Their brains aren’t complicated enough to reach the same self-actualization process that humans are capable of. Irena is a human and is capable of so much more. By the time she embraces her humanity it was too late. Her husband Oliver had already fallen for someone else.

To Irena, this had just confirmed her theory that fate was out to get her. So, she devolved into a cat, and went on a killing spree.

Irena realistically could have saved herself, but it was a combination of people not taking her illness seriously and her self pity that lead to her downfall. Perhaps if Oliver had set aside his fears for the sake of her health and believed her, assuring her that her fears were valid, then maybe she could have overcome these fears. After all, belief is half of all healing.

I’m sure we’ve all been in situations where we are living through a living hell of our own irrational fears and anxieties. No matter how much we show our distress, no one takes our pain seriously, and backs away, treating us no better than a cat who only lives to kill and eat. Sure, our pain may be unrealistic and irrational, but they feel real to us.

In the sequel: Curse of the Cat People Oliver’s daughter becomes friends with Irena’s ghost. Oliver resents Irena and claims that his daughter’s interactions with his past wife can mean nothing but evil for his family. After he has a chat with her teacher, he decides to put aside his pride and believe what his daughter is seeing at least for the time being.

Oliver sets aside his reservations and comforts her by saying “Do you see that woman in the garden? I see her too”. What this film is trying to say in this scene, is that sometimes if you want to help someone you have to treat their fears as you would anything else. Oliver’s daughter wasn’t afraid of Irena, but because Oliver couldn’t set aside his reservations, he was only pushing his daughter away from him.

If Oliver had believed in Irena, and just simply said “it’s okay that you’re afraid”, he could have been the rock that Irena needed.

In both of these films, the leopard was used as a representation of man’s nativity, and lack of understanding that some fears, be it internal or external, are completely valid in reality.

In Leopard Man, a sickly man was able to use society’s disgust towards the leopard, and lack of attention to reality to disguise his killings to fulfill his evil desires.

In Cat People, the leopard was used as a representation of Irena’s inner fears of what she thinks she really is, and because she believed in these fears, she devolved into nothing more than a carnivore.


The Allure of Evil


Sometimes, we may feel that we are having thoughts and feelings that are inherently evil in nature. Sometimes you may feel yourself wishing revenge on somebody that has wronged you, or you have feelings of self-doubt and self-hatred. However, these are just thoughts, and it’s completely normal for somebody to have such emotions, but what makes them harmful, is if you choose to act on them or not.


The House-cat

“Cat Portrait” by Ceyhun Jay Isik is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Voices

In The Voices, our main character is a schizophrenic young man named Jerry that has two pets, a house-cat named Mr. Whiskers, and an English Mastiff named Bosco. These animals speak to Jerry as if their voices were real.

The difference between Mr. Whiskers and Bosco is that Mr. Whiskers encourages Jerry to give into his murderous urges, and Bosco disagrees, saying that Jerry is better off living a life of normalcy.

Early in the film, we see Jerry murders a woman he has a crush on by accident. Bosco encourages Jerry’s initial inclination to turn himself in, and when Jerry confesses that he morbidly enjoyed the murder, Mr. Whiskers suggests that he should continue giving into his murderous urges and hide the body.

As Rosco and Mr. Whiskers fight with each other as to what Jerry should do, we can see a direct representation of Jerry’s thought processes. These animals aren’t actually talking, they are two separate “voices” in Jerry’s brain.

Of course, Jerry’s relationship with his pets is not “normal” in nature, as it’s a symptom of an incredibly degrading mental illness. However, this exaggerated relationship works in the blueprint the film has laid out for us because it perfectly reflects the relationship we have with our own thoughts, as all of us have had degrading and unpleasant thoughts floating through our heads every day.

These two voices are named the id, and the super-ego. The super-ego is the part of us that punishes us when we make decisions that could harm others emotionally or physically. The id is the part of us that looks after our own needs and desires. Due to the independent nature of the id, it often clashes with the collectivistic nature of the super-ego.

One example of the relationship between the id and the superego is a 100 dollar bill left behind at a grocery store. The id would likely encourage us to take it, as it could be incredibly useful to us. We have bills to pay, we have things in life that we want, and with that 100 dollar bill, we could be one step closer to getting what we want.

The superego would likely say to us that we could be in the same position. We know we would be very upset if we lost that much money, so we are able to relate to the person who dropped it, so it encourages us to turn it in to the cashier in case the owner comes back.

This is exactly why this film is so terrifying yet also so relatable because we have all been in a situation where we have done something we shouldn’t have, leaving us constantly battling ourselves resulting in an empty well of our mental energy.

By the time Jerry finds out that he never had to act on any of these thoughts in the first place, it was too late. By then, he had murdered three people and kidnapped his therapist in a mad panic.

The contrast between Jerry’s dog and his cat is perfect. Cats are mischievous and are very independent animals. A cat would be much less likely to develop separation anxiety than a dog because they haven’t spend nearly enough time with humans as dogs have. Cats do tend to love their owners and are capable of showing affection, but they generally look out for themselves. Not to mention, cats are also notorious for living with frightening individuals in pop-culture.

Dogs are much more loyal and will often do specific things for their owner to please them. Dogs are also much more akin to feel guilty when they do something against their owner’s will or break something valuable that meant something important to their owner. Dogs have evolved over thousands and thousands of years to be man’s best friend.

Jerry’s relationship with his pets is a perfect representation of his id and super-ego at work. In one point in the film, we see Bosco confess to Jerry that he will no longer support him, and even leaves his house to go into the wild. This scene is a great representation of Jerry’s superego, as the pain from his guilt becomes too much to bear. Right after Bosco leaves, Jerry commits suicide.


Conclusion


There are plenty more films involving a cat in the blueprint of the film’s story and themes. These are just examples that I personally found to be very intriguing. In any case, cats can be a great representation for dismay, as cats are very independent. When independence has become too important for an individual, it can lead to selfishness and possibly even psychotic behavior. I can’t think of any other animal that has a close relationship with humans that can be used in this manner. There are just way too many films of this nature to include in a single blog post, so expect some more cat action in future content.

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