The Lego Batman Movie: A New Era in Children’s Movies

The other day I saw The Lego Batman Movie with a few friends. I’d seen The Lego Movie back in 2014 and liked it, but wasn’t sure how I would feel about Lego Batman since I’m not the biggest fan of superhero movies. I was pleasantly surprised by not only the plot of the movie, but the writing and dialogue as well.

Aside from Batman having to deal with The Joker and literally every single other villain from the Batman universe, the side conflict of the film is that Batman adopts a little boy from the local orphanage named Dick Grayson, who in the comics originally became Batman’s Robin. Robin (Dick), when first going home with Batman does not know that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person, and thus assumes that he will have 2 dads. The nature of his realization is in no way a joke, but actually a genuine and optimistic discovery. I greatly appreciated this, especially since it is a movie meant for kids and is a great way to go about normalizing gay relationships. I think this is one of the first times in awhile that I can recall a piece of popular media not portraying gay relationships in a joking manner.

Another surprise to me was the way that the movie went about Batman’s past trauma of losing his parents and how its affected him as an adult. The Joker wants Batman to admit that he is his greatest enemy, but Batman flat out says that he ‘doesn’t do relationships.’ Batman spends the majority of the movie being aloof from others and doesn’t like to have intimacy or closeness with anyone, not even Alfred to some degree.  One of the other main characters is Barbara, the daughter of Commissioner Gordon, who becomes the new police commissioner after Gordon announces his retirement. She encourages Batman to work side by side with her to help keep Gotham safe, but Batman repeatedly declines, stating that he works alone.  Alfred at one point says that Batman’s greatest fear is being apart of a family again. These themes are arguably mature to be in a kid’s movie but nonetheless are portrayed well.

In the end, Alfred, Barbara and Robin become Batman’s new family.  He learns that his actions do affect others and sometimes, it can be in a negative way. The movie stresses the theme of ‘friends are family’ and even ends the film with a song about that. Throughout the course of the film, Batman learns how to be vulnerable and accept help from others. Because after all, it takes a village – not a Batman*.

*a quote from Barbara during her initial speech

I highly recommend this movie for those interested in Batman and in general, good movies. The animation of course is beautiful, and the Lego style never fails to be a nice touch. I hope to see more movies that are targeted towards kids have such appropriate writing and great ways on how to approach sensitive topics. A 10/10 from me.

The Lack of Body Diversity in Animation – some thoughts

Racial diversity has seen great steps forward in animated films and television shows these days. As a girl of Chinese descent myself, I am one hundred percent behind this progress. However on the other side of the coin, is a much more neglected kind of diversity: body diversity.

What this refers to is the kinds of body shapes and sizes that are out there available on children’s animated films and televisions shows. Although this is a problem pertinent to both male and female characters, it is most restrictive on the female end of the spectrum.

Take a moment and try thinking of a show with a wide range of female body characters that is not the old wise lady, or the villainess. Even when there are so many progress animated shows out there being broadcasted and have been broadcasted, this feat is unfortunately difficult. Some shows that I can quickly think of is The Proud Family,  Steven Universe… and that is when I trail off. This feat should not be as hard as it is. But unfortunately, the appearance of female characters (both main and supporting) is limited within the range of slim-but-curvy-but-not-too-curvy-yet-not-too-slim. To put it short; the bodies of all Disney princesses thus far. Surprisingly, Snow White has been pointed out as one of the more chubbier girls, but that is about as far as the list goes. It is sad to realise that even shows with stellar plot-lines and characters do not have such body diversity for their female characters, such as one of my all time favorite shows from my childhood, Avatar: The Last Airbender. And although animation is technically “not real”, the effect of a singular body type that is so prevalent in animated shows and films upon pre-teen and adolescents’ idea of their self-image is very much real; almost parallel to live action shows.

So why is this the way it is?

To dig a little deeper, I read an article named “Why is Disney Still Making Female Characters With Such Cartoon-ish Bodies?” from The Huffington Post Blog. Although this article focuses more on realism in cartoons (which is arguable, because artistic style is a whole other can of worms) it does tie in with diverse body representation. The author, Monika Kothari, concludes that with the hesitance of show creators to have more body types has less to do with budget, and more to do with perceived female desirability for the general audience. I wholeheartedly agree with this point, and can’t help but feel disturbed and uncomfortable by this revelation.

It is disturbing because this implies that any deviation from this norm is therefore undesirable. From some insightful conversations I’ve had with my podcast group members, it is certainly something that does echo within many girls. We see not just one character but all characters sporting the same body type; the only deviation from body size or shape is when there is a corresponding deviance of morality or character (ahem, many female villains, or the comic relief). In turn, we look inwards; at ourselves in the mirror and reflect these qualities and feel shame. It’s easy to now turn and shame the body type that is so widely represented, but that is a horribly misguided direction. Certainly there are girls out there who has bodies like these characters. However, even within one show or film alone, it should not be the only body type that appears.

Sure, it could be argued that children should just be taught that appearances shouldn’t matter so much anyways; we should just ignore the bodies and instead focus on the character. However, the sole purpose of the conventional body is to appeal to conventional standards of desirability anyways, so how can that possibly be argued?Additinally, although I completely agree with the fact that we shouldn’t be obsessing over appearances in the first place, it is difficult to accept when characters themselves are their bodies.

This brings in another dimension to the female body in animated shows. Not only are they not diverse in representation thus far, but the fact that different kinds of bodies have been tied with the semiotics of character and tropes that it is certainly hard to easily dismantle with a casual ‘oh let’s just stop obsessing over the appearances of characters’.  For example, we have been conditioned to associate a curvier woman with immorality, seduction, and deception due to repeated representation of this body type as a symbol for character. How can we turn around is say that now we should’t look at the appearances and care so much when that has been historically the way that character is communicated? …However, that may be a post for another time; i’ve talked enough. My only sole hope is that female characters would be allowed to have more different shapes and sizes; whether it is stylized or realistic (Steven Universe is a great example), conventionally desirable or not.

Reaction to: Sexism in Dragon Age; The Difference Between Intent and Negligence

Sexism in <em>Dragon Age</em>: The Difference Between Intent and Negligence

So this article actually previews a lot of ideas that come to mind for myself, especially since I know so much about Dragon Age and will be discussing it for our podcast.

Most of the article is discussing the relationship of the worldbuilding in DA because history was heavily influenced by powerful and atypical kinds of women versus the real world parallels DA has written into its own world. Basically, the writers injected modern problems like sexism and racism into a fantastical context and they parallel how those occurred in the real world instead of using the context of the world DA exists in. This causes a massive disconnect with how certain characters are treated and looking back historically within the context of DA how they would actually be treated.

I think what point really resonated for me the strongest was “the lore of the universe seems to only have an effect on the in-game writing when the writers feel like it.”

As a massive fan of Dragon Age, that quote is one of the primary problems with the franchise and its writing as a whole. The writers aren’t really checking back on the lore that they created and constantly contradict themselves.

Interesting Event on Campus!

Hey it’s Liberty

We mentioned representation of asian women a bit in this class, there’s an interesting event I’m attending as a part of another class and I thought it’d be cool to share.

Asian & Asian American Studies Inaugural Lecture Series

Christine Yano, Professor of Anthropology, University of Hawai’i

“Kawaii: Fraught Innocence in Asian (American) Commodity Culture”

4:30-6:00pm Ahmanson Auditorium UHall 1000

Asian Representation in Animation


(That photo is what pops up when I google Asian Animated characters)

Growing up, I watched a lot of tv and cartoons. I consumed a lot of media and messages without really thinking about what I was watching because I was too young to know any better. I never really thought about Asian representation in media because there was never really enough of it growing up for it to cross my mind. That has definitely changed since coming to LMU where I began working for the office of Ethnic and Intercultural Services and started taking classes on diversity and interculturalism. Because of this, I started getting angry when I consumed media because I was aware and felt the need to question choices that filmmakers and show creators have been making for years.

When I think about positive Asian characters in animation, I think of Disney’s Mulan (such a classic), Avatar the Last Air Bender (yikes at M. Night Shyamalan!), and American Dragon Jake Long (Asian male lead with a love interest, wow!). All are fun examples of Asian representation, but they are few and far between. There is definitely a general lack of Asian representation and content in animated media that go beyond stereotypes or are three dimensional. Besides the general lack of Asian representation and content in animation, I have always wondered why we barely see Asian American representation. It seems as if the only story people want to tell are ones of magic/kungfu/warriors. Do people only care about Asian stories if they are mythical and magical?

Something I’ve always wanted to see is an animated sitcom centered around an Asian American family. I think a show that centers on the intersectionality of being Asian and being American is what younger me would’ve loved to see on tv. I can’t even imagine what that would look like! We have shows that are driven by characters and family dynamics like “The Simpsons” or “Bob’s Burgers” and I think creating a show around an Asian American family would be a good way to create more three dimensional characters. The shows I grew up watching were funny, but not really relatable because they never reflected what life was like in my home or my friend’s homes. People tend to create what they know and this industry is dominated by mostly white males which I think is one of the main problems (nothing bad to y’all white males). I am interested in working in entertainment and want to help be part of the change that will diversify the industry. The same stories are always being told about some white protagonist and their struggles that do not relate to me or other minority populations. Our world is so diverse yet we barely see shows that accurately represent the world around us.

If we continue to paint the same picture of Asian Americans in the media (nerdy/smart, quiet, etc.), then these stereotypes and prejudices will be affirmed again and again. I know things won’t change right away, but here’s to hoping that they do change! 

Also, I know that there is a live action show centered around an Asian American family, yay to Fresh Off the Boat!


Mirra Tubiolo Intro

Hey all! Sorry for the late intro. My name is Mirra and I’m a sophomore animation major. I love birds (probably too much) and I love drawing (and drawing birds).

Fun fact: I have caught several hundred animals with my bare hands. Mostly lizards, though that number includes a large quantity of butterflies, ~50 baby fish, several birds, a baby alpaca and some other miscellaneous things.

Redefining Beauty in the Animation Universe

Is unconventional beauty the new standard for beauty in animation? In the recent years, studios such as Disney, Dreamworks, LAIKA, and Cartoon Network have been tailoring more and more of their characters on screen to be more “human-like:” flawed and different from the “cookie-cutter” designs of what society thought of as “attractive” in terms of appearance.

For Walt Disney Animation Studios, their attempts at unconventional beauty have worked well given the year that each film was made. The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s (1996) Quasimodo, for example, illustrated what makes someone a “man” is not their appearance, but in their personality and compassion. With that said, Quasimodo unfortunately still didn’t end up with Esmerelda, perhaps the only reason being how the story played out in the book and play (Although Esmerelda dies in both, it is evident she falls in love with Captain Phoebus). They tried to make up for it in The Hunchback of Notre Dame 2 (2002) by giving Quasimodo a girlfriend, Madellaine, but some viewers felt it didn’t completely do him justice. Well, even though he didn’t get Esmerelda by the end of the first film, he was accepted by society (and then later got Madellaine in the second film). Considering the film was made in the mid-late 90’s, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a valiant effort to make way for unconventional beauty.

Another Disney film which broke conventions in the concept of beauty was Beauty and the Beast (1991). Both main characters, Belle and Beast, portrayed differing forms of unconventional beauty. For Beast, his physical appearance and rough demeanors made him a misunderstood character who was redeemed by his ability to love someone for who they were. Yes, in the end he turned into a very handsome prince, which did take away a bit from the whole “unconventional beauty” aspect. Disney tried not to step on too many toes while challenging the concepts of beauty (being a film from 1991). Then we have Belle, who although was a gorgeous young lady, was still ostracized by her village for her love for books. Everyone called her in the song, “Belle,” “a beauty but a funny girl,” “she’s nothing like the rest of us,” “she’s strange, no question,” and “that girl is so peculiar! I wonder if she’s feeling well?” It is evident here that the concept of “beauty” portrayed by the villagers/society sees knowledge as a counter to attractive physical appearances. Therefore, Belle’s love of books in addition to her attractive appearance makes her an “unconventional beauty.”

Dreamworks also had films which challenged the standards of beauty, namely with Shrek and Fiona in the Shrek series (2001, 2004, 2007, 2010). Despite being ogres, which were considered by their world the most vile and ugly creatures who were destined to be alone, Shrek and Fiona loved each other regardless. As a matter of fact, they even had children, which had every cute personality trait a human baby would have. Shrek’s family proved beauty comes in all sizes, and true beauty and love came from accepting each other and all their quirks. Furthermore, Donkey and Dragon also portrayed very similar themes, adding the additional theme of interracial love.

Let’s not forget about LAIKA! Boxtrolls’s (2014) trolls, for example didn’t have an “attractive” physical appearance, their fun, cute, and loving nature and acceptance of Eggs exemplified their beauty came from within and reinvented what beauty meant for their world. LAIKA also created films warning against the façade of “beauty” presented by society in Coraline (2009), where Other Mother made everything physically attractive in her made-up world in order to lure children into her trap. It was the flawed characters in the real world who showed Coraline what true value and caring looked like.

Last but certainly not least, Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe (2013-present) presents characters such as Rose Quartz, a tall and well-built woman, Amethyst, a short and round young woman with a spunky attitude, and Steven, a short round young man with a heart of gold. All three characters portray physical appearences outside the normal “cookie cutter” designs of a moderately-tall-and-skinny protagonist and positive role models. These not only redefine beauty as more unconventional, viewers are able to relate to them much better due to their more realistic character designs.

Truly, these animation studios have made great impacts in making “unconventional” beauty the new standard for beauty in animation. Perhaps as time goes on, more and more films and television shows will follow in their footsteps, creating characters that are beautiful in their own unique and flawed way.

Squishing the Bug: Advice from a Weakling Artist

Sitting at my desk, having recently deleted the “News” app on my Iphone to protect myself from the chaos of Trumpism, I have learned about the importance of weakness. Ten days ago, when President Obama bestowed the honor of being the “Leader of the Free World” to Hades, I was glued to my laptop, not only aware that my time as an American was about to become a chapter in a series of history books, but I also began contemplating my role in this shift. Being born as a biracial, binational, bisexual, bilingual individual from two world powers, my identity forced me to rethink what my responsibilities were as someone who might very well be impacted socially, economically and politically by this new era. However, this impact that others have felt is something I still have trouble relating to.

Thus, in response to this future oppression, I asked myself a series of questions naturally born from this contemplation: should I now become an activist? Do I give up my pursuit of making it as a screenwriter in favor of a career that’s more “meaningful”? Or has living in Lalaland really given me a privilege to stay out of this global mess we’re in? Is it then worth it? Because honestly, other than the discourse in our day to day lives, my beautiful, creative and intellectual bubble is still standing strong. I can write whatever I want, say whatever pops out of my millennial head, and not fear condemnation. Of course, upon my own reflection and the input of my oppressed ancestors who didn’t have the privilege of having a voice, I reached the conclusion that my calling as an artist isn’t any less meaningful than other diverse careers that make America great, and if I was to continue protecting my delicious bubble from Lucifer and his minions, I better do my best to make sure those cockroaches get squished real quick.

How was I going to do that? By continuing my work and recognizing its truth.

So there I was, thinking about how my portfolio might reflect my understanding of the world and my place in it, and ultimately help in this pursuit of squishing the bug. I had been working on a number of projects, as diverse and different as the people who make this country shine. However, the one I have been most drawn to discuss is my recent work on an animated show I named “The Time Keepers”. The story about a group of teenagers who must stop evil forces from destroying time as we know it, I thought: “wow, what a great way to think about the real world.” Of course, this is an animated show that is completely based on fictional characters in a fictional world. But so often, I’ve found my work to be a source of enlightenment, inspiration and encouragement for how to tackle real life. To quote Neil Gaiman from Coraline, “fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” In this case, we can all assume to know who my dragon is. However, the truth of the matter is that we all know how dragons appear in every facet of our lives, constantly forcing us to understand the darkness we all face everyday, and the resilience we need in order to get to the point of fulfillment and achieving a sense of accomplishment, purpose, and inclusivity.

So then, how might our stories that inspire us to believe that we can fight back against something bad also teach us about the importance of weakness, and reveal just how much power there really is in it? Well, from personal experience, as a 20-something year-old college student who has spent what feels like a lifetime being laughed at and bullied for what seems like every reason in the book (except for being a woman) and is still able to use those experiences to illustrate a truth seen through his work, weakness is in fact my middle name. Even though we have all felt humiliated either because of our marginalized or even privileged positions in this culture, our experiences are so vast and so unique that they transcend every social barrier we as a group often set in stone for ourselves. And as we take part in this great (but admittedly pricey) institution that will hopefully strengthen our potential for being leaders in entertainment and the world eventually, remember that weakness gives us the power of empathy to speak on behalf of those whose bubbles are threatened and whose own weakness is so severe that we must send our own dragons to lift them up.