Flynn Rider: Reimagining the Disney Prince

The 2010 Rapunzel story Tangled was an instant classic and remains in a place of high honor.

Much of this is due to the charming and roguish Flynn Rider, adorable crown thief- turned into the adventure partner and harmonizing prince we ladies dream about.

Was it his gorgeous face that caught our attention? Uh, well, yeah, that certainly helped.

His sense of humor? Mmmhhmm.

The smolder? It certainly did not damage his cause.

the smolder

 

As much as we love his charming exterior, what really sold us all on Flynn Rider was the way he changed the “face” and expectations for the classic “Disney Prince”.

The character that came closest to Flynn Rider before he hit the screen was most definitely Aladdin. Not only was he also an adorably mischevious thief, but rather than just a pretty face with a castle we were given a more 3-dimensional character who had his own backstory, own dreams, and own failures.

Still, Flynn Rider, or shall we say Eugene Fitzherbert took it to the next level.

Flynn Rider started out as a self-seeking jerk.

You are talking to a girl who loves the good guys. I have only fallen for the “bad boy” twice in my life and those two bad boys ended up becoming the best of the good boys. #edmundpevensie #captainhook (Apparently I go for dark good looks as well? Hmm…)

But it is wise to admit to ourselves that everyone is human, male or female.

We have imperfections, we have broken places, we have pockets of selfishness or places of retained anger. There are things about ourselves we would like to change and things in others we find hard to overlook. We’re really messy, and sometimes kind of ugly.

Flynn Rider is something of a scoundrel. He double-crosses his own partners-in-crime in order to keep the crown for himself.

When Flynn arrives at Rapunzel’s castle, he has an initial moment of awe over her beauty, but it passes like a cloud over the sun and then he’s back to scheming again.

Can I just say how much I love the fact that Flynn and Rapunzel broke the “love at first sight” Disney couple trope?

I 100% believe in love at first sight. It happens all the time in real life. I just think it’s a good idea to present more than one way for a couple to fall for each other. Many couples discover each other over time, building one step upon another. Such is the case for Flynn and Rapunzel.

Flynn Rider has eyeballs, anyone with eyeballs can see how beautiful Rapunzel is. He has a normal human reaction to her appearance and then he starts trying to pull one over on her. His own selfish needs and desires trump whatever reaction she just created in him.

#canayoneelserelatetothis

I’m not saying we need to stay here, by the grace of God and Jesus’ death on the cross I am redeemed from the selfish choices that I make, I am in the process of becoming more like Him every day. But I still make mistakes.

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Flynn’s plan to frighten Rapunzel ends up placing them in a situation of danger where Rapunzel’s indomitable spirit and open heart earns Flynn’s respect.

She takes a roomful of gross and scary (and anatomically incorrect) men and turns them all into mush by seeing beneath the surface and touching their hearts.

Follow that up with an epic escape from multiple foes that succeeds when it shouldn’t…

…yeah, Flynn looks at Rapunzel with new eyes.

He is impressed, there is more to her than he at first thought. The sweetest thing is that Rapunzel does all of this without the intention of winning someone’s approval or respect. She is merely being herself and is entirely guileless. It’s refreshing, tantalizing, and touches a long-hidden part of Flynn Rider.

Enter, Eugene Fitzherbert.

First respect, next we go to a new level. Vulnerability.

Flynn and Rapunzel find themselves in a dark cave with water rising. #thisismyworstnightmareminussomesharks

The idea that they are facing death gives Flynn the courage to reveal one of the most precious and tender parts of himself…his true name.

Eugene Fitzherbert. It’s soft and sweet. Rapunzel listens with such kind respect, she proves to Flynn that not only is she someone he can rely on in a pinch, but she is also a safe person to trust himself with. His true self.

The theme of revealing their inner selves continues by the fireside where Rapunzel reveals the story of her magic hair and Flynn tells her about that special book that gave him oxygen to dream during the tragedy of his childhood as an orphan.

Whoa, a sad orphan who used to read this book to the younger orphans? A kid who grew up and took on the name of his literary hero to try and build a life of plenty for himself to replace the history of lack and lovelessness?

I. Am. Intrigued.

We begin by seeing Flynn through the mask he has invented for himself – a careless and debonair thief who needs no one. #funnybutnotmarriagematerial

Within the course of about two scenes of tender and revealing moments, our perception is entirely changed to match what is this character’s truth.

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Flynn is not a typical Disney prince. He is just as broken and in need as the princess is. He needs her as much or more than she needs him. They need each other in different ways.

It’s a beautiful picture of so many real-life relationships where you take two extraordinary individuals who each bring something neat to the table, but together they create something wonderful.

Together they end up helping each other heal.

Together, they dream a new dream.

We started with respect, leveled up at vulnerability, and now we bring in attraction.

Flynn is sooooo attracted to Rapunzel. She has had a deprived life in a way different from his, but no less real. However, her deprivation has made her kind, patient, and eager to enjoy every little thing.

The word that best describes Rapunzel is “wonder”.

The biggest dream of her life has just been to go and see these beautiful lights that fill the night sky on her birthday.

Flynn has been everywhere and thinks he’s done everything, it was all old news to him until he met her. 

Rapunzel reintroduces Flynn to the idea of wonder, and during that process, he finds himself deeply attracted to her.

I love the montage of this glorious day in the town that leads up to one of Disney’s best romantic songs in existence. It shows Eugene and Rapunzel falling for each other in such a sweet, specific way that celebrates life.

Falling in love with Rapunzel doesn’t just bring stars to Flynn’s eyes, we get to go so much deeper into the why behind his love for Rapunzel that we do with many other Disney princes.

Rapunzel reawakens the Eugene within him, reminds him of who he is, and gives him the courage to dream something far bigger than just a castle of his own.

Rapunzel and Flynn’s story reminds us the power of human connection to create change as well as the healing capability that true love can bring.

And what is true love? It has been said in passing in so many stories, but we actually get to see it lived out in Tangled in a way that blew my mind.

True love is a sacrifice.

He first respected her, then he allowed himself to be vulnerable with her. His attraction grew alongside hers, but Flynn’s love was proven to be real when he sacrificed himself for her without a single selfish thought…

…he actually dies for her.

Flynn’s sacrifice is not pretty, he gets stabbed in the back and is bleeding out on the floor. #thisscaredmesobad #disneybrokealltherules

There were no grandiose words or declarations of valor. There was no masterful sword fight against a dragon (the dude lost a duel to a horse, y’all), no sweeping in on a vine to rescue the girl. No magic shoe to gallantly slip on her foot.

He is weak and bleeding out on the floor. In hoarse tones he calls her to come close to him.

In a swift motion he uses the last of his strength to take a shard of glass and cut off all of her hair…freeing her forever from her lifelong bondage.

The shock of that moment hit me like a tidal wave in the same way it does for the other characters. Rapunzel can’t even comprehend the fact for a moment that her hair, the source of her magical strength as well as her hideous bondage is gone. Mother Gothel is in the throes of death (whew, that was ugly), and Flynn is dying.

As Rapunzel cradles a dying Eugene in her arms, they have such a broken and tender moment where they tell each other “You were my new dream.”

eugene dying

 

I love this! The word “dream” gets thrown around so often in our stories and our real world.

It gets watered down, misused, abused, and people practically kill themselves in the pursuit of what they believe to be their “dreams” only to reach the end and find themselves with no one.

Flynn Rider, or rather, Eugene Fitzherbert thought he knew what a dream was, and then he met Rapunzel. And she became his new dream.

The word “dream” is redefined for both of them as they realize that the true dream to is share a lifetime of meaning and purpose with someone you love. Together you create something bigger than yourself.

Flynn’s entire life has been about achieving his “dreams”. He actually finds out what his true dream is, and he gives it all up without hesitation in order to ensure that the woman he loves is safe.

This is pure true love. This kind of dream and this kind of love make so many other imposters fall away to ash in the face of something as deeply rich and full of potential as Rapunzel and Flynn’s love for each other.

It makes the moment when Rapunzel’s teardrop heals him all the more amazing as yet again, she does the impossible by simply being herself. The payoff of this movie is incredible.

We went deeper, therefore we celebrated bigger.

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Respect. Vulnerability. Attraction. Sacrifice. Joy.

flynn and rapunzel in tower

He’s the “perfect” man, physically the man has 0 faults. But Disney secreted a real-life, 3D human in a perfect package.

Flynn Rider completely reinvented the way we looked at Disney men and opened the door for characters like Kristoff, Kit (Prince Charming), Prince Adam (live-action Beauty and the Beast), Finn (Star Wars: Sequel TrilogyAladdin (live-action Aladdin), and so many more to come.

Flynn was so perfect it wasn’t even real, and yet, they managed to take the “perfect man” and teach us the beauty of imperfection as well as the depth and meaning of a true dream and the true definition of love.

To one of the greatest Disney characters ever created.

Flynn Rider, we love you.

flynn rider kind face

 

Disney: Why Disney+ is a Good Thing

There have been mixed reactions since Disney announced their intention to create an exclusively Disney streaming service that will be available in 2019.

As more and more news has come out regarding the service, the conversation has heated up.

I’ve spent months thinking about the pros and cons of this service, how it is going to affect media in general. I have come to one conclusion…

…this Disney streaming service is a good good thing.

Here’s why.

Why Disney’s Streaming Service is Good for the Consumer

During a discussion on this very topic, someone brought up a very real point regarding the multitude of streaming options available. Yeah, I know I’ve felt like I am straddling so many different services it’s becoming obnoxious. The desire to find everything in one location (like shopping at Wal-Mart once rather than 5 different specialty grocery stores) is deeply appealing.

However…streaming services are not like grocery stores, they are more like the fast food of the visual storytelling world. They are fast and immediate.

I could spend fifteen minutes just listing the number of fast food options we have available in this country. Some are nationwide, like McDonalds, and some are more localized. Dear Folks, do give Braums a try if you are ever in the Lower Midwest.

That many options can be overwhelming, wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one?

Maybe. Would it be better? NOPE!

Ask any person in a one-stoplight town that has ONE McDonalds. They will give you a resounding NO.

nope kermit

 

One restaurant means the same food all the time. Occasionally there may be a new menu item added, but that’s rare. No guarantees on the quality of food or service, after all, there is no competition for our One Restaurant to force it to be its best in order to stay in business. Food, service, prices, bathroom cleanliness, our One Restaurant dictates these things because due to the law of scarcity, they can! They know we have nowhere else to go, they are our One Option if we want to eat out.

However, suppose we added five other restaurants to the mix? What happens?

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Now our One Restaurant is one of Many restaurants, we have other options, now they have to step up their game and compete, or go out of business.

Think about the deals we have available right now in fast food. Wendy’s 4 for 4. A McDonald’s $1, $2, and $3 menu. Taco Bell has a pretty dang tasty $1 menu. And on, and on, and on.

So much variety and constant change that is to our (the consumer)’s benefit.

Competition.

You may not have realized it, but I just described capitalism to you. Capitalism gets spread around the media like it’s a dirty word, and socialism is the “cool” thing that makes life better for everyone!

Wrong. Most people don’t actually understand capitalism or socialism. You love getting a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, fresh flowers from the farmer’s market, a toothbrush from Wal-Mart,  and a hand-knit wool hat from Etsy? Cool! Thank Capitalism!

Capitalism is not all about trampling everyone underfoot in a mad scramble for the top spot. Capitalism that is done right can create freedom, opportunity, options, and competing in a way that holds each business accountable. The ultimate judge and jury for said businesses? Us, the consumers.

I don’t know about you, but I really like options. Sure, if I decide to eat at Fazolis, I can’t eat at Taco Bell. We do eventually have to choose one thing or another. But that’s okay, I make the choices I want for my life. And I appreciate the ability to choose.

What does this have to do with Disney’s streaming service? Lemme tell ya…

…Disney just majorly upped the ante…and we as consumers are going to benefit.

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Netflix is gonna have to up their game. I know they are trying. Lost in Spacis a work of beautiful storytelling and art that I applaud from the highest mountain. They just signed a deal to create a Narnia series, another decision that I am incredibly excited about. Netflix has its claims to fame with Stranger Things, but that’s not gonna be enough anymore, and I am interested to see how Netflix decides to combat this new challenge.

Amazon is a fierce competitor. This online giant has more than just a streaming service in its empire, Amazon has a little bit of everything, and they are getting bigger by the day.

*Sidenote, just so that you can become aware, I am starting to suspect that Disney and Amazon are secretly working towards world domination, and one day this battle will come to a head. Choose wisely, Citizens, will you be a Prime Member or belong to the Micky Mouse Clubhouse? Sides must be chosen. Choose wisely.

We all know Disney is giving their streaming service the red-carpet treatment. They are intent upon taking every wish we have made upon a star and making it come true. And while I have a love/hate relationship with Disney, I have to honestly say, they usually deliver.

Yes, some of these streaming services/shows that exist are going to die. We are going to take some hits. Daredevil and it’s fellow Marvel shows are early casualties. I can understand why those shows will no longer be continuing from a business perspective, but I can also understand the grief from fans. I’m sorry you feel disappointed, folks. I know how that feels. *coughs, AGENT CARTER! 

In the end, however, we as consumers will reap the benefits. Every streaming service with its own content is going to have to do their absolute best to compete with Disney, which means better content with higher quality.

Now, onto the really fun part.

a whole new world gif

Why Disney’s Streaming Service Is Good for the Fan

Loki.

Scarlet Witch and The Vision.

The Mandalorian.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

Live Action Lady and the Tramp.

CASSIAN ANDOR!

 

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I am looking at a whole new world right now, ladies and gentlemen. A world made possible by streaming services.

I am never going to stop going to the movie theater to enjoy movies on the big screen. I do not go to the theater because it is convenient, no, I go because I value the experience so highly. Millions of other movie fans do as well, therefore I have no fear that we will lose our movie theaters into the black hole of streaming services.

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Putting a movie into the theaters is more complicated than you may realize, however. It costs tons of money, and you have to not just make that money back, you have to make a large profit for that movie to be considered a success. Next, you have Blu-ray and digital sales, and then your film ends up on streaming services.

It’s a tough world, which means that film studios really have to be choosy about what they put their time and money into for the theaters and television. Despite the number of amazing characters and stories that we as fans love and want to see told, we are only given a few at a time because they HAVE to be picky. Which means that large groups of minority fans are left disappointed.

Enter, the Disney Streaming Service.

loki looking bad

Loki Odinson has delighted viewers since 2011. He’s a complex character, one moment the villain, the next, an antihero? He’s fast, his motives blurry, his emotions unpredictable. But what is predictable is the love of his fans for this character. A large minority of Marvel fans have been begging for a Loki film for years, but in the grand scheme of the Marvel storyline and budget, it just hasn’t made sense. Until now…

Loki is getting his own miniseries. Given how complex his character is, a miniseries is a far better format for his story than a film would be. Miniseries have the option of telling a story more slowly and going into greater personal depth than movies do. It’s just the type of storytelling the god of mischief deserves.

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Scarlet Witch and The Vision are all about exploring what it means to be human. They are complex enough characters on their own, and together? Even more so. They have not been given the amount of time required to really dig deeply into the wealth their characters’ have to offer. Not to mention these characters are not big enough mainstream favorites for a full theater release to be profitable. But a miniseries? Perfect!

captain cassian andor

The moment I saw Captian Cassian Andor my brain was on fire (yes, the man is gorgeous). But what truly got me electrified was the story he represents. It’s the untold story of the darker side of the Rebellion. A dark, painful, morally complicated side. A whole realm of questions and potential we have never seen before. We had no time for side trips in Rogue One, it was such a beautiful and focused movie that was precisely what it should have been. But at the end, my heart didn’t just ache for what we had lost, my heart ached over the stories that had been briefly introduced that I felt we had lost. Stories that I was desperate to discover. And now, I can.

the mandalorian

The Mandalorian. I’ve watched 6 Seasons of Clone Wars and 4 Seasons of Star Wars Rebels. Mandalorians are the kinds of characters that take up all the oxygen in a room. They need to be explored. I love how Star Wars films/series have recently started exploring more characters beyond just the high profile heroes and villains. It’s a fascinating world, let us explore it more!

Falcon

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. I am constantly saying that Sam Wilson never gets the credit or time he deserves. He’s just the greatest guy ever and I am so thrilled to finally get to see more of him. And we can all agree that there is a big question mark hanging over Bucky Barnes’ life. It’s about time.

white wolf

My other big hope for this streaming service is that we will have resurrected series/films. Star Wars fans fell off of their tauntauns when we discovered that our beloved Clone Wars series (which ended horribly) was being renewed for a proper send off. Dreams really do come true!

swtcw

My personal request is that shows like Agent Carter and Girl Meets World who ended FAR TOO SOON would be next up on the renewal docket. These shows had strong enough fanbases and quality storytelling to make said endeavors worthwhile. But we shall see.

Don’t you all understand? The possibilities available to us? The potential? We may actually get a National Treasure 3 out of this service! It would flop in theaters but on the service?

And the best part yet, the monthly cost for this magical service is supposed to be less than Netflix.

take my money

In conclusion, Disney is moving into the 21st Century with style. And we, the consumers and fans are going to reap the benefits.

disney movies

I can’t wait. How about you?

 

Coco: Returning the Dream

I know, I missed the hype for Pixar’s latest masterpiece, Coco. I didn’t see it until this past week.

I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t my favorite Pixar movie, but I was still deeply impressed by the creativity, the colorful animation, the music, and above all, the story.

Pixar has the reputation of making story after story that touches us in the deepest parts of our hearts. The biggest, baddest, toughest humans among us can walk out of a Pixar movie crying because they just got healed from some childhood trauma or something.

The key to Pixar’s success is that they don’t overcomplicate their stories. They pick simple, profound truths about life, love, and people, and then proceed to remind us of those truths with unforgettable stories and characters.

I loved how the creators of Coco took an already established piece of Mexican culture and used it to create a fantasy world where Miguel travelled to meet his ancestors. They created a more physical, visual picture of the written/spoken truths we all learn over time and from the knowledge people leave behind for future generations. Rather than learning these things in letters, history books, Miguel learned them face to face. What a creative way to communicate the message!

The message. Pixar has pretty consistent messages. Live in the moment. Life with the people you love is an adventure. Keep swimming. But family always comes first with Pixar, always.

Miguel was born into a family where music had supposedly torn the family apart. His great-great-grandfather had left his family behind to pursue the dream of music. The fear his family had was that music would take another loved from them. Miguel feared that his family would steal his dream. The false belief everyone had was that it had to be one or the other.

angry abuela

 

In the Land of the Dead, Miguel met his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz, a musician who had followed his dream to the letter. What Miguel discovered upon closer view, however, is just how empty Cruz’ dream was. The man had become so obsessed with his all-important dream that he had literally murdered for it.

de la cruz

The victim? Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, Hector. Hector knew his family was the real dream and was willing to walk away from the glamour of Cruz’ world in order to return to the true music of his heart. But he was cut short, kept from his loved ones, and has spent lifetimes trying to return to his family, to his little girl, Coco.

hector

Here’s the thing about dreams. They are beautiful things, they can cast vision, hope, spread joy and new things to the world. Dreams make horrible masters, however. Those that follow the dream blindly, forgetting all else, reach an empty reward. What is the point of living your dream if you have to do it alone? If you’ve burned bridges, lost loved ones, and destroyed relationships?

What I loved about Coco is Pixar reminded us yet again of a simple truth.

The people we love do not have to be an obstacle to the dream, instead, they are the dream. When we love our people first, the rest falls into place and becomes something even greater.

Hector had a song, a beautiful song. Remember Me. It was the song he used to sing to his sweet little girl, Coco. He had loved to make music with his family. Once he left their lives, the music left as well.

At the end of the movie, Miguel races back to his great-grandmother Coco, racing against time as Hector is fading away in the Land of the Dead, as he has been forgotten by all his family that still lives, except perhaps for Coco. Miguel must help his great-grandmother remember her Papa before it’s too late.

*pulls out tissues*

And with the music, Coco remembered her Papa. Hector was restored, a family was healed, and Miguel began to make music again. But this time Miguel had a greater purpose for his music, a greater understanding of what it meant and what it could accomplish. His dream of music had enabled him to restore his family and change their past, and their future legacy. He wasn’t able to reach this greater level of the dream until he embraced his family and accepted their importance in his life. And once he did, the dream became reality and it became better!

I don’t know what your dreams are. Sometimes our dreams may take us farther away geographically, for a time. But they should never take us away in our hearts from the people we love. The people we love make the dream more beautiful because they are the dream. Regardless of what you do in your life, the people you love make it worthwhile. You can be cleaning toilets in a gas station, or singing on American Idol, it doesn’t matter, life is about the people we love.

Thank you, Pixar, for once again bringing us home. Home in our hearts, home in our priorities, home to the truth.

home and family

 

The Need for a Sparring Partner- Part 2

Sparring partners can come in many forms. They can be good friends and allies. They are often love interests. Many sparring partners actually come in the form of villains who, by adding negative pressure, force the hero to get stronger. A sparring partner can also come in the form of a setting or circumstance.

Here are a few examples of good sparring partners.

Love Interest Sparring Partners

Han Solo and Princess Leia

There is no question that Han’s interest in Leia opened the door for him to reveal his big heart and put it out on his sleeve. Han’s drive to fight for Leia, Luke, and the Rebellion pushed him to greater things and more selflessness than ever before.

Leia’s love for Han opened up places in her heart that she had carefully shielded. She is a more well-rounded person because of him.

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And let us all just recognize the masterpiece that are Han and Leia’s verbal exchanges. I think some of the most legendary film dialogue ever written takes place in The Empire Strikes Back.

Finn and Rey

In the course of just a few days, Finn goes from being a frightened Stormtrooper to charging fearlessly into Starkiller Base and dueling with a Dark Side warrior. Finn makes this incredible 180 turnaround because of one person: Rey. Rey simply being who she is pushes Finn to desire to be better, to be more. And that mighty person is exactly what he becomes.

Likewise, Finn touches Rey’s heart by being the first person in her life who has shown her concern, care, and friendship. His choices regarding her make a huge impact on her chosen direction. Finn was a catalyst in Rey’s life that helped move her down the path she is destined for.

Barry Allen and Iris West 

I wish I had time to cover everything I have to say on the subject of West-Allen. I promise you, there is a juicy article in the works.

Barry Allen has been in love with Iris West since forever. Iris has always believed in Barry, even when he didn’t believe in himself. The combination of these two is dynamite.

Barry runs faster, punches harder, and doesn’t give up because he knows that Iris believes in him. She is his inspiration as well as his home.

Iris has always been inspired by Barry, she has always believed in him, even before he became the Flash. Her relationship with Barry throughout the years has helped shape her into a compassionate and mighty person who makes things happen. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind to Barry, even when he doesn’t want to listen.

Like I said, dynamite.

Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter

*Sigh*, we’ve lived this story so many times and it always hurts. But it still wows me.

Steve Rogers immediately saw the strength, dignity, and heart in Peggy Carter. She was everything he could have ever dreamed for in a woman. Knowing her made him want to be better all the time. He carries a picture of her in his compass because Peggy is his true north, his guide, even after her death her words and heart still reach him at his core.

Peggy Carter was almost instantaneously impacted by Steve Rogers. She fell in love with him on Day 1 and his memory inspired pretty much her entire life. She felt that no one, including her, could ever hope to be everything that Steve was. Keeping him in mind, Peggy lived a legendary life that inspired others.

Best Friends

Steve and Bucky

They are with each other “To the end of the line.” 

Growing up, Bucky kept Steve alive. He never failed to have Steve’s back. He took punches, fought battles, and held his friend up through anything. Knowing that scrawny kid from Brooklyn with the massive heart made Bucky into the best friend everyone dreams of. He is a total hero. Without Bucky, there never would have been Captain America

Steve had the best friend in the world, one he could always depend on. When Steve thought he lost Bucky, he kept going with Bucky still sitting in his heart. The knowledge of who Bucky was and the sacrifices he willingly made hugely impacted Steve’s life choices. Later on, when Steve learned Bucky wasn’t actually dead but now a brainwashed assassin, Steve didn’t write his friend off. He walked through fire and ice to save his friend, without hesitation.

Hiccup and Toothless

Hiccup Haddock began to come into his own as soon as he met Toothless. While Hiccup already had many unrecognized talents and abilities, he never had a reason to bring them forward until he met his dragon. Toothless made Hiccup grow into a selfless leader who is constantly improving. Hiccup never settles or stays stagnant, he is always improving, always growing.

Bonding with Hiccup pushed Toothless beyond the bounds of ordinary dragons. Toothless was already an extraordinary dragon, but his great love for Hiccup has pushed him to do things that go even against his own biological instinct. The greatest example of this is when he challenges the Alpha Bewilderbeast in order to protect Hiccup.

Hiccup and Toothless are stronger together, they inspire and push each other to greater heights all the time.

Woody and Buzz

Despite a rough beginning, Woody and Buzz have a friendship that real life people are jealous of. While Woody at first felt threatened by Buzz’s strong presence, he has since grown to appreciate and lean on this brave little space ranger’s shoulder. Woody helped Buzz face reality, learn resourcefulness, and taught him the joy of being a child’s toy.

Buzz is Woody’s backbone. When Woody needs support, Buzz is there. When Woody can’t lead the other toys, Buzz steps up to the plate. When Woody forgets who he is and what being a toy means, Buzz is there to remind him. Great friends remind each other who they are when one has forgotten.

Woody and Buzz make each other better, they fill each other out and made one heck of a team.

Enemies

Flash and Reverse Flash

Run, Barry, run!

Eobard Thawne (aka Harrison Wells/The Reverse Flash) is a top example of a how a villain can be an excellent sparring partner.

Thawne is incredibly layered and complex because he has been the friend, mentor, villain, and created circumstances that have all shaped Barry and forced him to become better. Thawne is constantly moving around and changing up his strategy to manipulate Barry’s actions. That being said, everything that Thawne has done has still made Barry faster, stronger, and smarter.

 

Barry continually overcomes obstacles and springs back up. Whenever Thawne thinks he has won, or at least stolen something from Barry, the strength of Barry’s will and heart still carry the day. Thawne continually has to change and evolve his strategy because he just can’t seem to take a good Barry down.

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader

There are dozens of articles waiting to happen regarding the Skywalker family. I’ll try to keep it simple here for now.

Luke Skywalker came onto the scene as a whiny kid who had raw talent and Force abilities. And he was in WAY OVER HIS HEAD. Still, he had a enough mentoring in the form of Obi-Wan to jump-start his Jedi career. He also adopted his own personal enemy, the scary guy known as Darth Vader.

Luke was driven to conquer Vader for multiple reasons. He knew Vader to be the villain that destroyed his father (whom Luke worships), Vader killed his mentor (Obi-Wan), and Luke knows that in order to become a powerful Jedi, defeating Vader is his primary concern.

This drive to defeat Vader pushes Luke to train. His time spent on Dagobah was all geared towards his impending confrontation with Vader. Mentally, and physically, Luke was preparing himself for the sole goal of defeating Vader. And then, SURPRISE!

This was a huge moment for Luke’s character. Everything could have fallen apart right here, but lucky for us Luke was smart enough to fall down a ventilation shaft and get the heck outta there.

By the sixth movie, Luke’s goal and drive was to win his father back. He was calm, focused, and frighteningly strong. He faced down Vader and the Emperor without fear. He declared himself to be a true Jedi and confirmed his belief in the good left in Anakin Skywalker. Because of his back and forth battle with Vader, emotionally, physically, and mentally, Luke walks out of Return of the Jedi a total superstar.

 

Darth Vader was trapped. He was evil, he hated the Emperor, and he hated himself. But he was too weak to do anything about it. Until he met Luke.

“The Force is strong with this one.” He becomes obsessed with tracking Luke down and bringing Luke over to his side to join him and overthrow the Emperor.

But that Luke is just too darned determined! He’s slippery, he has good friends who have his back, and Luke is surprisingly strong. Vader has to keep thinking outside of the carbonite chamber in order to track Luke down.

He tries to play the “I’m your Daddy, I know you have Daddy issues” card and his kid purposely falls down a ventilation shaft to get away.

Luke awakens something in Vader. He awakens whatever is left of Anakin that is buried inside of this dark Sith lord.

Vader is in awe of this kid, his kid, who keeps popping back up and just getting stronger all the time. Vader is at war within himself, the Dark and Light side are both tugging at him. One side is his enslaved mind to his Master, and on the other side is his love and admiration for his son.

Luke’s faithfulness and strength are strong enough to make Darth Vader shake himself out of years of darkness and slavery, and overcome the evil that is both himself and the Emperor.

If Luke had never been forced to face Vader, he wouldn’t be so strong. And if Luke hadn’t been so strong, Vader never would have returned to being Anakin. That right there is a showcase of the great power of a excellent sparring partner.

Vader and Luke were sparring partners from the very beginning, even though the nature of their interaction with each other evolved and changed throughout the story.

Setting/Circumstance

Mars and Mark Watney

The Martian has to be one of the best films I have ever seen. It was man vs. Mars wrapped up in a dramatic, yet lighthearted and educational package..

There is no villain in The Martian, but there is an antagonist, and one heck of a sparring partner: Mars.

An inanimate object, a thing with no mind, will, or emotions still takes on the role of the opposition. In order to stay alive, Mark Watney has to essentially beat Mars. He has to out-think, out-math, out-science, out-wit, and out-mental Mars.

Mars proves to be a pretty tough sparring partner. It constantly throws things Mark’s way that almost kill him.

Mark jumps through hoops, solves seemingly impossible equations, and comes up with gadgets and gizmos that would make MacGyver weep. Mark also grows very mentally strong during this ordeal. While he faces heartache, loneliness, despair, and fear, he never gives up.

The Mark Watney who went into space with his buddies is not the same Mark Watney that comes back to earth. He has conquered the unimaginable and come out victorious.

Mark still has an affection for Mars. Even though just about every aspect of Mars was trying to kill him on a regular basis, Mark appreciated the beauty and wonder of Mars. Mars was practically became a character in its own right.

Mark’s character sparred with Mars and he grew exponentially. Those watching Mark grew. Mark’s goal to stay in the match (stay alive) with Mars created a ripple effect that went all the way down to earth. Thousands of people were effected and made stronger by the match with Mars.

Jurassic Park Movies- Man Vs. Nature

Yet another series that I have so much to say on, but now is not the time.

The Jurassic Park films are an amazing example of using setting/circumstance as a sparring partner. I put the dinosaurs into the category of setting because the dinosaurs are not dangerous for any emotional or personal reason. This takes the soul and emotion out of the situation, fitting it more into the category of an emotionless setting or circumstance rather than an emotionally-driven character.

While there are human villains in these films, those humans and their effective harm pale in comparison to the dinosaurs and the damage they cause.

Yes, a dinosaur is a living creature, but it is a creature without a spirit and soul. The dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are merely behaving out of their instincts, making them less personal, but no-less deadly. This of course was changed in Jurassic World, when the Indominus Rex began to rampage beyond the need for food or defense, but instead merely for sport.

The characters in the first 3 Jurassic films often go into the situation with wide-eyes and little wisdom.

It doesn’t take long for them to realize that they are pretty well out-matched and they are going to have to adapt and learn fast if they want to live.

The ones who make it out do so because their characters had a growth spurt. They learned to stop underestimating these animals. They learn the animals’ strengths and weaknesses.

The animals also change and adapt. The velociraptors in particular. They experience new circumstances, absorb the information, and then adapt to the new situation. More than any other dinosaur species in this movie series, the velociraptors prove that they are not stagnant and will continue to change and grow. That makes them ever-increasingly difficult to defeat.

This is an incredibly unique set-up, one where an animal is the human’s great sparring partner/enemy, but the non-emotional creature is also learning and growing because of the human’s involvement.

*****

The need for good sparring partners is vital for any story, be it a film, a book, or your real life. I draw a lot from studying these interactions on screen, and I hope now you can too.

What type of sparring partners do you enjoy the most? Villains and heroes? Love interests? Best friends? Setting/circumstance? What are some of your favorite sparring partners on screen? Do you have great real life sparring partners that help you grow and mature?

I’d love to hear your stories and your opinions. Share what you love, I want to know what you think.

And if you missed my previous article, you can find it here.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Dory – Parental Review

I must admit, I was a bit skeptical about Finding Dory going in. I know that’s crazy given Pixar’s incredible track record, but give me a break, Finding Nemo was just so great I had a hard time imagining FInding Dory could live up to it’s predecessor.

And you know what? It didn’t, and that’s why it was perfect.

Pixar was smart enough to recognize that Finding Nemo was beautiful, unique, and could not be replicated. So, they didn’t even try to make a Finding Nemo 2 featuring Dory. Instead, they took the magnificent characters from Nemo and gave Dory a story that was completely her own.

In terms of likability, I think I love Finding Nemo and Finding Dory about the same. I can enjoy them equally because they are two very different movies. I personally found Finding Nemo to be more desperate with higher stakes and rawer emotions. Given that Marlin was the primary character in that film, it makes sense that we would all feel more stress. The idea of a baby fish  being kidnapped and taken across the ocean to be given to a bratty child is pretty scary.

Finding Dory was far less frightening more of the time than Finding Nemo was, but it never failed to hold my interest or keep me engaged. The emotions expressed by the characters were less desperate, but no less real. One aspect that really stood out to me was how they portrayed Dory’s short-term memory loss. Dory is such a cute and cheerful character that we often see her in a comical light, especially her short-term memory loss. After all, she’s Miss “Just Keep Swimming” who never gives up and never loses faith.

Since this was her movie, I think Pixar did a great job of showing what the downsides of memory loss can look like. And truthfully, it was heartbreaking. Dory, through no fault of her own, has had terrible things happen in her life because of her memory loss. She rarely lets herself get down about it, but it does have negative effects. Sometimes, Dory starts to forget something she KNOWS is important, and she begins to panic, knowing that she needs to remember, but can’t. It tears her up to know that she may have forgotten something, or someone she cares about. Dory also expresses fear of being left alone without someone to guide her.

These moments stood out to me and caused me to really put myself in her shoes. How horrible would it be to forget where you came from? Who your parents were? What if you forgot how to get back home?

I walked out of the movie with a greater level of awareness and compassion for people who suffer from memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Their lives have to feel so scary. Memories are such a precious, precious gift that many of us take for granted. I think Finding Dory found a beautiful way to communicate that to children (and adults) in a way that was heartwarming and engaging.

This movie is sheer delight. I laughed so many times. Pixar stayed true to their characters and fully respected all of these fish that we have come to love. Dory is such a sweet and persevering character, she is truly inspiring and a great role model.

The Pixar short Piper is one of, or maybe it IS their finest short film. I laughed so hard and smiled all the way through. It was a purely delightful little story that drew you in immediately and left an impression on the “sand” of your heart.

Sex/Nudity- Warning, this movie is completely full of naked fish. If this will be an issue for your children you may want to wait until they are older. 😉

Violence/Gore- Hardly any. There is one moment of peril involving Marlin, Nemo, and Dory that may upset little viewers (I think I heard a child crying in the theater during that part). You can calm your children by telling them the truth that everything will be okay and that this movie has a happy ending.

Language/Profanity- The word “carp” is used once. Go ahead, chuckle to yourself.

Heroes and Role Models- Dory is a brave and caring fish who has never let her problems get her down. This isn’t only shown in her life, but her positive attitude has rubbed off on those that know and love her. Marlin, while stressing sometimes, is a good friend who wants to do right by Dory. Nemo has matured a lot since his movie, and is a good son to Marlin and a great friend to Dory. Dory manages to rally all of the other primary characters around her through her spunk and perseverance.

Talking Points- There are so many great talking points and discussions that this movie can introduce for your family.

  • Why is it important to persevere and “keep swimming”?
  • How should we treat those that have a problem that can make them difficult to be around sometimes? How can we make their life easier and help them know that they aren’t alone?
  • How can we encourage people to be brave?
  • When we are scared and panicking, how can we calm down and get back on track?
  • How do we overcome obstacles in our life?
  • How do we maintain a positive attitude?
  • How can we learn to think creatively and be resourceful?
  • Why is it important to learn from other peoples’ strengths?

Finding Dory is a lovely movie and another gem put out by Pixar. I highly recommend it for any age group and give it my full approval!

And always remember, just keep swimming.