Interview: Jamie Logan on DETER and their new single ‘Sick & Tired’

DETER, Glaswegian post-hardcore band, are in the midst of their rise ahead of their forthcoming new single ‘Sick & Tired’. Lead vocalist, Jamie Logan, provided me with the opportunity to sit down with him over Zoom and discuss the single, lockdown and DETER‘s future.

Pre-save ‘Sick & Tired’ here: DETER – Sick & Tired (Pre-Save)

“Doing this has quite literally given me a voice I didn’t have before.”

Jamie Logan

I hold a lot of respect for Jamie in terms of who he is as a person, what he advocates for and everything he represents. He is, both, one of my closest friends and an inspiration to me.

How are you feeling now that lockdown is ending?

Better because there’s an actual prospect of doing things and you’re not just stuck with all the bad negative clutter. It’s like dusting a house after a year of letting it get dusty. We’ve already got a couple of gigs booked for later this year which we will announce when it’s time to and actually had time to reflect on everything so we’re building the way we want to build. It was a good time for reflection and we’ve got plans going into the next year already. We have the next 8-10 months of what we’re doing mapped out pretty much.

What can you tell me about ‘Sick & Tired’?

Similar to the last single, it touches on mental illness but instead of it being an introspective song (like ‘Underneath’ was) it’s looking at it from a different perspective: it’s watching someone you care about suffer from their mental illness and it’s almost personifying depression. It’s like a conversation with the embodiment of depression.

We wrote it about 2 weeks before we were going to record because we needed another song and we had 2 weeks to write another song. We just kinda put it together and it turned out way better than we thought it would have.

No description available.

Where does the song come from? (if you don’t mind me asking)

I’m very open about what I write about. I’m very vocal about everything because everything I say and everything I sing I believe in- in some form or another. Obviously our songs are very mental health centric as it’s something that’s impacted my life greatly, whether it be me or the people around me.

In terms of the lyrics of ‘Sick & Tired‘: I looked back when I grew up and realised that, as a kid, I didn’t understand the severity of things like watching my mum take medication for depression or watching my brothers grieve when my mum’s father passed away. It was derived from that. Just looking back on that and thinking, “wow depression is an illness that’s taken so much from my life and me as it’s changed the people I love and it’s changed me a lot”. I know there’s more of a conversation around it than there was 5/10 years ago but there’s still a long way to go and we need to keep talking about it so my way of doing that is doing the only thing I know how to express myself with (which is music).

You could throw a million metaphors in there but it’s never going to portray the honesty and the bare bones condition of it. It’s a sickness with no cure.

That’s what I loved about ‘Underneath’, the fact that it was a very honest song.

I think ‘Underneath‘ is the most honest song that I’ve ever written. It was very weird because I had to sit there and show my gran and her husband the song on the release day. Just sitting in the same room as them while they listen is something that I notoriously hate like, when my aunt and uncle put our songs on the alexa I boost upstairs. I’m not embarrassed thinking it’s bad but I’m embarrassed because it’s such an intimate part of me. You kinda have a safety bubble around you when it comes to family and some friends but when your music is the deepest, darkest section of your being, that bubble is gone.

How do you feel about portraying such a vulnerability and openness about your experiences to the world?

Its terrifying. For a long time, I was playing gigs and stuff and it was very difficult to make eye contact with people while I’m singing certain worlds. Like, I’m here singing songs about wanting to be dead and they must be thinking “what the fuck, why does he look so happy while he’s doing this?”. It’s scary, letting your guard down isn’t easy and it’s not supposed to be easy. I don’t mind being perceived as vulnerable in those situations because when we are going through those experiences, we are vulnerable whether pride allows us to admit it or not. That’s just normal. It’s not a weakness but it’s definitely vulnerability and I think particularly the men in society could do way more to show that side of them because that’s how you beak the stigma, that’s how you open up the conversations to then make things more inclusive and rehabilitative.

How do you feel about the response to ‘Underneath’?

It’s insane. Before we put ‘Underneath‘ out, we had about maybe 70-90 monthly listeners and now we’re at 1,800+. Says it all really…. The attention to detail we put into everything; all the teasers, the email campaigns, the general aesthetic of the visuals, how hard we’ve all pushed it, the merch drop. The merch drop we did for this was the first time we’ve actually done anything in house because Jonny did that design himself, we ran a pre-sale (which we’ve never done before) which covered the costs of the merch.

It seems like you’re going full throttle with these new releases, have you changed how you do things as a band?

It’s different in regard to the first album, which is not really anywhere now because we took it all down (except for BandCamp- we only kept it on there as a commodity because there is a small fraction of people who do still enjoy that and were quite vocal about that).

Ultimately, we wanted to rebrand after it because it wasn’t an accurate representation of who we are as a band or individuals. We wrote the songs about 3 years ago so they’re old to us. We kinda just recorded an album and didn’t drop songs but put it out as the body of work. It was a learning curve, we were learning as we went. Now we know how to prepare a release & how to market a release: we’re sending teasers out, we have a website, email campaign, running ads and constantly promoting on our social media.

As we move forward we’re doing more and more things in house. Me and Dylan are learning to use video editors, I’m doing photography and pushing it to a level where we can do a lot of our own visuals, Jonny’s been grinding the design learning, Dylan enjoys recording and is learning production & the person who is playing drums for us now is a production student. As we evolve, we’re putting more responsibility onto ourselves so we’ve got more control and so we can prepare things more adequately. More often than not, when you’re paying someone, you’re getting a good service but they’re never going to be as invested in what you’re doing as you are because it’s like your kid.

What drives you and this dedication?

About a year ago, we probably came super close to breaking up about 3 times with old members. It was a very disruptive messy environment for us personally and professionally. There was a lot of clashing and a lot of arguments. Coming out of the other side of that with Dylan being in the band now, Sean still being in the band and Jonny being more involved than he was prior- we were all just like: this is what we want to do. It might not be a full time job ever but if it can be a big part of our lives, regardless of that, then it’s important. We’re not trying to cater to other people before we cater to ourselves. It’s a direct extension of us as individuals and creatives as a massive part of our personalities. When I talk about myself, the first thing I say is, “I am in a band”. It was created from a college practice room and a spur of the moment decision. Just knowing it came from nothing & how far it’s came since then is a huge part of it. You don’t want to give something up that you’ve put so much time and energy into. The band has grown just as much as we have in only 3 years, so imagine 10 years down the line. We could be literally anywhere in 10 years.

What are your hopes and dreams?

I have a million but, to simplify it, we just want to be able to tour regularly, record the music we want to and just to keep creating…like that’s the main thing. Hopefully other people will enjoy what we make and do, if they don’t then that’s fine as long as we enjoy it. So just to keep enjoying it because if it stops being fun that’s when it stops, when it becomes a task & a chore with no enjoyment in it that’s the only thing. We want to tour a lot because we’ve never toured in 3 years. To be able to go to places that we’re not from and for people there to be interested in what we’re doing enough for them to come see us at a gig or buy a T-shirt. We’re partially living that now by getting streams all over the world and having people in the US reviewing our music or randomly getting someone from Germany mentioning us in an Instagram story.

I had someone who I’ve been a fan of for 6 years of my life hit me us asking if we ship our T-shirts to the US. That’s mental! For someone who I wanted to be like when I was about 16/17 years old to ask to buy our merch is part of the dream really. Being respected enough by your peers to know that you’re doing something right is huge.

What is your writing process?

I’ve got a notepad and the app on my phone. I’m always writing but I don’t force myself to write. It can be a lyric, phase or word. Sometimes I’ll be watching a movie or reading a book or poem and I’ll just take influence. Or someone in my life will tell me a story. A lot of what we’re writing now are stuff has happened to me but also to people I care about or have cared about. We’re starting to delve into darker territory with the themes and concepts. What I’ve written about before was about relationships falling apart and aspects of mental health but I’ve never written about specific scenarios and things that have happened to people I care about. I don’t write lyrics when I’m happy and enjoying life. The ideas come from when something is overwhelming and needs to be put into an outlet.

Does that help?

Yeah, I’ve said this for so long. Doing this has quite literally given me a voice I didn’t have before. I was just in my own bubble for a long time and this gave me a platform. It quite literally lets me vocalise my thoughts and feelings so, yeah, it helps a lot. It’s like free therapy.

What can you tell me about your future releases beyond ‘Sick & Tired’?

Our manager Matt has been like, “listen guys, you need to start looking at announcing this now” so this can be like the unofficial/official announcement of our EP ‘A Life Without Colour’.

To start off, our song ‘Iniquity’ drew on the themes of everything becoming bleak and hopeless with a lot of metaphors about things losing their colour. This then carried over to ‘Underneath’ with the lyrics being “I’m sick of seeing black and white when everything feels grey”, like, nothing is black and white because everything’s just a grey numbing feeling. You can see it in the artwork of ‘Iniquity’, our designer Abbie did a really great job of depicting that perfectly by having the colour drain out of the scenery. We actually do a lot of subtle references to things that no one (other than us) notices. The video for ‘Underneath’ is deliberately black and white to match the tones and emotions- in our brains that’s what it looks like to us. ‘Sick & Tired’ follows similar themes because there’s a lyric in there that goes “lethargy is rife inside as colour fades before my eyes”. Again, there’s metaphors about everything losing colour and not everything just looking like a coloured movie because it doesn’t as we don’t live in a fantasy land where everything’s bright.

The next song in the EP that will drop after that is, again, bleak and about mental health. It doesn’t make metaphors about colour but it’s there deliberately. Every song on ‘A Life Without Colour‘ continues to build on the narrative. We wrote those songs over the space of a year but they’re all very relevant to the vision that we’re trying to paint & we’re already tying together the next EP or album.

God of War (2005)- A Divine First Impression

Yesterday, I began playing the first God of War (2005) game and have instantly fallen in love with the franchise from the get go. I did this because I really want to play the newest iteration, which is uniquely named God of War (2018) as I’ve heard it’s one of the best games of all time. However, I want to know the full story before I get started with that. Every predecessor to it is on PlayStation Now so my plan is to storm through them. And I am so glad I approached it this way!

Though the outdated graphics were slightly jarring to begin with, they’re quickly overshadowed by a multitude of aspects in God of War (2005) which have aged beautifully. The story, the map design, the music, the gameplay and the gore are all incredible!

Best Godofwar GIFs | Gfycat

Following perspective of the spartan mortal, Kratos, God of War is the ultimate tale of vengeance. Hellbent bent on killing the titular God of War, Ares, Kratos will stop at nothing to complete his quest. He has a family-oriented motivation and a broken spirit, which reminded me of Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. During this thrilling adventure, you will encounter a rogues gallery of mythological foes from Minotaurs to Cerberuses who each bring their unique challenges.

One thing I adored about my playthrough Dark Souls, during the first lockdown, was the interconnectedness of its world so I was over the moon when I discovered that God of War also does this! This is for many factors. It gives a sense of achievement when unlocking places you recognise, makes the scale feel impressive and allows you to take in the effort & thought put into the map. In particular, I absolutely adored mechanism puzzles for how fun they were!

God of War‘s combat system is really enjoyable. As you progress, different Greek gods will grant you new abilities. I found myself still utilising every unlocked skill throughout my gameplay which was new to me. Usually in games, I find some special abilities more interesting than others and will neglect to use a handful. Not during God of War though! Each power is consistent, feels impactful and was always relevant to my playstyle.

Of course, this game is graphic. I’m sure this is one of those games that mothers despised for its violent content (because of the myth that violent video games cause violence, even though I’m certain most hole punches are caused by a particular football game). In 2020, it’s hard to be squeamish over pixelated blood but it’s definitely still amusing to see a hydra get its eyes gouged out! Surely this is grounds for a marvellously bloody remaster.

I found this game to be rather difficult at times. If Dark Souls requires patience then God of War requires skill. My sloth-like reflexes are nowhere near quick enough for the number of quick time events in this game and the intense button mashing had my fingers absolutely butchered, specifically when R2 needs hitting. This is because it’s PlayStation 2 game without a remaster and I was playing on a PlayStation 4 (with a PlayStation 4 controller, of course). If you don’t figure out that you have to point the trigger towards you and press it like it’s a button, the game is going to be unplayable for a certain point. Also, the person who created that unfair spike pole in the underworld is ironically going to Hell themselves.

One thing I have to add is that PlayStation Now was a nightmare. Streaming can’t be the future of gaming! It annihilates your internet which caused the game to crash a few times. Internet shouldn’t be a requirement for a single player PS2 game, especially a big chunk of the stuff. Just let me download it!

Ultimately, God of War was a blast! A testament to that is the fact that I smashed it out in two days! I didn’t expect to have as much fun on a PS2 game (without nostalgia) as I did! I think a remaster is surely in order as its had the potential to be stunning and because some controls need reworking. I’m really excited to see where the story goes as it’s lore is really interesting and hope the sequels detail actual Greek myths, in part, rather than simply starring characters from them.

The Story of Martha- Martha Jones Walking the Earth to Save the World! (Doctor Who)

Earth is being ruled by the ruthless, evil Master and there is only one woman who can stop him. She’s a Doctor. Dr Martha Jones.

At the beginning of lockdown, I read The Story of Martha. I love the concept of expanded universe stories which directly add more substance to existing on-screen episodes, so this is something I’ve been interested in for years and quarantine finally gave me the time to read it. I loved it!

Set between the events of The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords, The Story of Martha follows the titular character’s mission to spread hope to the entire population that the Doctor will save the planet from its dystopian nightmare under The Master’s totalitarian rule. The whole notion of spreading faith in The Doctor & his ideals strikes me as somewhat biblical, which is furthered when Last of the Time Lords concludes with his out-stretched armed resurrection & immediate forgiveness of The Master. (It’s both surprising and not surprising that nobody has yet written a bootstrap paradox story where the Doctor interferes with history by doing miraculous feats, 2000 years ago in Jerusalem).

Not only does this novel follow Martha’s escapades during The Year That Never Was but it is also an anthology book- containing 4 separate short stories that are woven into the main narrative as Martha tells them to different people. Each of these short stories are written by different authors so the whole book is a collaborative effort, with Dan Abnett writing the narrative backbone. In my opinion, all of these short stories are fantastic and their edition makes The Story of Martha very worthwhile.

I didn’t care much for the introduction of Martha into Doctor Who when I was a kid because, by design, she was written as a rebound from Rose. However, the show does do a sufficient job of of developing Martha out of Rose’s shadow and into a strong character of her own right. (Even though Martha could name every bone in the hand from the get-go whilst Rose dropped out of school at 16 to run away with Jimmy Stone, who stole her computer). The Story of Martha was very effective in increasing my appreciation and respect for Martha Jones’ character by providing an insight into the trials and tribulations she went though in order to save the world.

In parallel to that, it gave me a scope of how merciless and evil The Master is. I was actually stuck by how dark this story got in terms of how this dystopian, fascist planet was described to operate. I did not expect a portion of the book to be set in a concentration camp for starters but I appreciate the author’s ballsiness, whilst maintaining this as an accessible book for children. In hindsight, I should have expected these morbid aspects as I knew from the show that a tenth of the planet would be massacred and that Japan would be totally destroyed. (A perk of this story is that it explores the incredibly interesting reason why The Master attacked Japan). The strong war-like tone of the novel makes The Master feel like a certain real-life historical, evil dictator. Martha’s on-the-ground perspective upon the repercussions of his actions makes him feel like a realistic, ruthless and terrifying villain rather than the fun, campy character we see in the show.

I have left out big portions of narrative details from The Story of Martha so as not to spoil the book because I highly recommend it. Especially to people who are big fans of Martha and especially, especially to the people who think Martha deserved better!

Out Of Time – David Tennant and Tom Baker’s Multi-Doctor Adventure! (Doctor Who)

The fan-favourite 4th and 10th incarnations of the renowned time lord join forces, in a Big Finish audio drama that will go down in Doctor Who history, to fight their deadliest enemy: the Daleks!

Multi-doctor stories are always appetising to a Doctor Who fan as they are often a special occasion that is unique to the franchise. It is always an interesting chemistry experiment to see how different incarnations of the character react to, and interact with, one another. Out of Time is an especially important multi-doctor adventure as it combines the classic era fan-favourite Doctor (Tom Baker) and modern Doctor Who fan-favourite (David Tennant) for the first time!

During his active avoidance of a destined death, whilst traveling alone, the Tenth Doctor seeks solace in the Cathedral of Contemplation where he finds a very familiar face. His own previous face (give or take half a dozen)! Combine this with an interruption of a fleet of Daleks, voiced by the ever-brilliant Nicholas Briggs, and Out of Time becomes a thrilling listen!

Without delving too far into spoiler territory, the dynamic between Tennant and Baker was everything I could have wished for! This is particularly impressive when you consider that this was recorded during Lockdown, meaning each had recorded their lines separately and more work than usual was required by the actors & crew. A friendlier tone is shared between the two incarnations which contrasts against other multi-doctor stories. I’m more used to the bickering between Troughton and Pertwee in The Three Doctors and The Five Doctors or the clash between Tennant and Smith in Day of the Doctor. However, there’s no tension between the 4th and 10th Doctor here! Tennant’s Doctor displays admiration and respect to Baker’s that is akin to his meeting with Peter Davison’s Doctor in Time Crash (wherein he summons his personal childhood nostalgia into his performance), while Baker’s Doctor spends a chunk of the story fondly treating Tennant like a companion.

Originally, and conventional to a multi-doctor story, there were more insults exchanged between the 10th and 4th Doctor in the script but Tom Baker thought it was too cruel and requested they be written out- which is really wholesome! Tennant’s love for his childhood hero shines through as the 10th Doctor is absolutely buzzing to see that scarf again!

For fans, there’s a handful of fun references to the show in the exchanges between the 4th and 10th Doctors. My absolute highlight of this story has to be when the two share a heart warming moment, reflecting upon Sarah Jane Smith. She was a character of pivotal importance to both Doctor’s eras, just as the late Elisabeth Sladen had made a profound impact upon the lives of both Tom Baker and David Tennant.

Tom Baker remembers Elisabeth Sladen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u5uC_Z1jmY

David Tennant’s Foreword for Elisabeth Sladen’s autobiography: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUNDkw3KBVM

What’s Next?

Now, this adventure is entitled Out of Time 1 which insinuates there will be more to come. Out of Time 2 The Gates of Hell will see the 10th Doctor join forces with the 5th Doctor against the cybermen in Paris’ catacombs (June 2021) and Out of Time 3- Wink will feature the 10th and 6th Doctors battling Weeping Angels (July 2022). I’m certain that The Gates of Hell will have a few nods to the previous Tennant/Davison story: Time Clash and also that Wink will show a clash of egos between Colin Baker and David Tennant as they are the vainest and most arrogant Doctors.

Hopefully we get even more annual Out Of Time adventures with Tennant eventually sharing an audio drama with every actor/actress who has played the Doctor! The one small positive in the (large) negative that is a second UK lockdown is that it gives Big Finish the opportunity to record more of these for years to come!

Click here if you would like to check out Out of Time for yourself: https://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/doctor-who-out-of-time-1-2272

Avatar and Community- Lockdown Juggernauts

Years after their original airing, both Avatar: The Last Airbender and Community received a huge surge of seemingly random attention on Netflix during 2020’s lockdown. I was one of the sheep who discovered both shows at this time and contributed to their massive second-waves.

1k mystuff community donald glover Troy Barnes communityedit the politics  of human sexuality imao this is one of my fav jokes on this show tbh  thediaryoflaurapalmer •

Before hand, these shows both had garnered their own cult followings of dedicated fans (from their original airings) who adored them and sung their praises.

My first month of lockdown was consumed by essays (which were the only thing in the world that hadn’t been cancelled) and playing party games on Houseparty and Zoom with my mates. By the time the second month came about, I was finished with university work and the gimmick of video calling had worn off. A daily bike ride to New Brighton and back for the government-allotted 1 hour of exercise became the most exciting part of my day. This was until I discovered Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Avatar: The Last Airbender is claimed by many to be a perfect show and I don’t think I can refute that.

After meaning to get around to it for years, lockdown gave me the opportunity to finally watch Avatar. I’d watched the first 5 episodes a year before but lost interest. On a first viewing it will take a while for it to click with you but, once it does, you will realise how incredible Avatar truly is. I believe this resonation will strike at around the end of Book 1 or at the beginning of Book 2. Once it happens, you’ll gain an appreciation for the whole show.

You’ve probably heard it all a million times before but Avatar is immense for it’s realistic understanding of character, stunning animation, powerful themes surrounding the many aspects of war and its impactful life lessons for coping mechanisms and morality. It’s episodes are also so consistently good.

Twin Dragons - Avatar: The Last Airbender GIF - AvatarTheLastAirbender  Dragons LastAirbender GIFs | Avatar zuko, Avatar, Avatar airbender

I began watching it on Amazon Prime, back-to-back with Futurama, and was paying that subscription solely for those two shows (and the odd re-watch of The Office (US). Almost immediately after I finished watching Avatar on Prime, it was sod’s law that Avatar became available on Netflix in the UK and US. This 15-year-old cartoon rose the #1 on Netflix straight away and stayed in the Top 10 for 58 days, becoming the longest lasting show in Netflix’s Top 10. This is huge.

The most popular shows on Netflix have always been Netflix produced ones: Black Mirror, Tiger King, Orange is the New Black, Stanger Things, House of Cards, Making a Murderer, Riverdale. And a 15-year-old, Nickelodeon cartoon is the longest serving in Netflix’s Top 10. It melts my brain.

There wasn’t much fanfare around Avatar’s addition to Netflix so it can’t be the advertising that did it. I honestly believe that the show was in the perfect place at the perfect time. During lockdown, the world needed the mature but comforting teaching’s of Avatar and its hopefulness that peace will be restored.

I honestly believe that the massive lockdown viewership numbers of this show, that imparts a message of harmonious equality against injustices, contributed (in some small part) to the cultural shockwave of the Black Lives Matter protests.

This random popularity is great for Netflix who, at the time, were in production of a live-action TV series of Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, the cartoon’s original creators (Michael Dante DeMartino and Bryan Konietzko) have now left the project due to production disputes. The upcoming live-action series is still underway but heading in a questionable direction. Despite this, I’m sure it’s original creators were inspired to explore this fictional world further in their own way after this huge draw of attention to the franchise.

Community

Community is a meta anti-sitcom with many episodes that are dedicated to paying homage to individual movie genres.

In the later months of lockdown, I began watching Community and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted from a sitcom. It is highly subversive sitcom which is absolutely cluttered with pop culture references and jokes about tropes. The best way I can describe Community is that it’s like The Big Bang Theory but if The Big Bang Theory was bearable to watch for more than five seconds.

Community Trailer GIF - Bazinga Surprise Happy - Discover & Share GIFs

For its first 3 seasons, at least, Community was an amazing show written by Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty) and produced by The Russo Brothers (Avengers: Endgame). Like Avatar, Community also amassed a new following for fans during its addition to Netflix during lockdown. When looking at Google Trends, the show has reached the same amount of attention, at this time, that it had garnered during its initial run.

As all its fan’s know, Community has a running mantra that a successful show runs for “6 seasons and a movie” which is what fuelled its return to screens after two cancellations. Eventually, the show managed to stumble its way into hitting 6 seasons (albeit without half of its main cast) and this random peak in viewership has ignited the fire for the movie to be all but confirmed. Alongside “Is 2020 the darkest timeline?”, the cast and crew are now constantly being quizzed on the whole “and a movie” thing. I’m certain that Netflix is ready to leap at the opportunity to produce it since Community’s lockdown fame.

Memes Culture

A good way to gauge the popularity of the film/show is based on how many memes templates are made from it. Avengers: Endgame, for example, has had almost every minute transformed into a meme template. I think this metatextuality/transtextuality comes from a similar realm of inside jokes. Of course more people will enjoy and share the memes if they’re in on the joke which is why the highest grossing movie of all time resulted in many, many memes.

At the start of lockdown, I noticed a lot of memes from the shitposting page Avatar: The Last Shitbender appearing on my Facebook feed. I’m sure if the admins looked at the page’s analytics, they’d see that there was a significant rise in likes and posts to the page upon its arrival to Netflix. Currently, the same goes for Community as that show is the subject of multiple new meme templates deriving from Community: Greendaleposting.

So what’s next? This is a very untraditional way for shows to receive their peak amount of viewership being that it’s now 5 or 10 years after each have ended their runs. Normally, they’d become dated over time but the contrary seems to have happened for Avatar and Community over lockdown. Of course, the enormous figures are due to the parallel of an enormous amount of people spending all of their time at home but it is interesting that these are the particular shows that many chose to watch (alongside new shows, of course). Maybe this random rise in popularity will happen again with another show but who’s to say what that show will be?

The Good Place- What is a Good Person?

(Spoilers for ‘The Good Place‘)

How do you be a good person? Why should you be a good person? Where, Who, When. Nah, I’m spent at two. Sorry to the rule of 3!

The Good Place is a brilliant 4 season American comedy which ended at that start of this year (2020). It follows Eleanor Shellstop after she arrives in an afterlife of eternal happiness called “The Good Place” which only harbours the people who have lived the most righteous of lives. Eleanor quickly realises that she shouldn’t be there because she has lead an immoral life.

Alongside being really fun, The Good Place is also very thought provoking and educational. When I began watching it in my second year of university, it instigated my interest in (and enjoyment of) philosophy and ethics.

cheleanor | Tumblr

The Good Place: The setting, not the show

The titular Good Place is a post-death reality that is akin to the Christian idea of Heaven, except one does not reach it through living a life of devotion to faith but by having enough points. Points are accumulated by doing good deeds and deducted by committing bad deeds. The amount of points earned or lost is based on the quality of the deed. For example, ending slavery will gain you +814292.09 points and carefully stepping over a flowerbed results in +2.09 points. On the flipside, an owner of a personalised licence plate will receive -1.44 points and telling a woman to “smile” will get you -53.83 points.

One is rewarded points when acting in a morally commendable way. But human actions are not as black and white as this within the mess that is modern day civilisation. The characters come to understand that the points system is broken. Like, suppose I buy a T-shirt as a gift for my brother’s birthday. This can be seen as a good and well intentioned act. Is it still a good act when you consider that T-shirt was created in a sweat-shop & therefore its purchase contributed to this breach of human rights? Should I gain points or lose hundreds? The point system is also elitist. A rich person has more money and time to spend on doing majorly “good” acts. At the same time, a hermit may never come into contact with another person so how do they act “good”?

Plach GIFs | Tenor

How do you be a good person?

Utilitarianism is an approach that focuses on the outcomes of an act and was founded by philosopher Jeremey Bentham. Bentham perceives pleasure as something that can be calculated or measured based on numerous variables like how long the pleasure lasts and its effect on perpetuating or preventing further pleasures. He feels that we should seek to maximise pleasure. Fundamentally, he believed that the right thing to do would be:

“The Greatest Happiness for the Greatest Amount of People”

In The Good Place‘s episode The Trolley Problem, the main characters play out the popular thought experiment of: if a train was headed to kill 5 people but you could prevent that by making it switch tracks to kill 1 person, would you switch the tracks or not? By following Bentham’s approach, switching the tracks would be the morally good thing to do because it would benefit the happiness for the greatest amount of people.

First, Do the Least Amount of Harm – Logan M. Shannon

Deontology is contrapuntal to utilitarianism. As utilitarianism focuses upon the consequences of actions and maximising pleasure, a deontological attitude is to focus on the motivation of actions and minimising pain. In terms of The Trolley Problem, deontology would conclude that switching the tracks would be a wrongful action because you would be the cause of the unjust death of an innocent person. Immanuel Kant proclaimed that we should “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether your own person or a person of any another, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end”. Flicking the switch would treat that one human life as a means of not killing the five. People often relate this notion to how Batman morally never kills the Joker despite knowing that the Joker will kill more people. A principle of Kant’s is:

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law”

(The Categorical Imperative)

This attitude is called Universalisation which is a way of understanding if an act is right or wrong by asking “What if everybody did that?”. If the answer to this question is that something would go very wrong then the deed is bad. Dropping litter on the floor is bad because if everybody dropped litter, the environment would be destroyed. You may recognise a form of universalisation if I were to put it in terms of “The Golden Rule” which is that you should “treat others as you wish to be treated yourself” or “Do unto others as you would be done by” (an ethical philosophy that is often claimed by Christianity but predates The Bible by 500 years). But Kant stresses that universalisation is more nuanced than The Golden Rule as people have different wants and needs. If someone really wants to get punched in the face, The Golden Rule assumes that that person punching someone else (who doesn’t want to be punched) is acting good. Universalisation, on the other hand, considers a world where everyone punches each other in the face and which would be a horrible world. Therefore the the act is bad.

At the end of the day, I ain’t got an answer for you about the whole train thing. It is entirely your choice. If you ever find yourself in that situation with a runaway train and a switch, you won’t have time to weight up the pros and cons of the situation and you would simply act (or not act) based upon your intuition in that moment. You could hypothesise what you believe the right answer to be but you’ll never truly know what you would do until you’re in that situation yourself.

Season 3 GIF by The Good Place - Find & Share on GIPHY

Why act good?

So I’ve given you a brief and completely contradictory idea of how to be a good person. (Great start!) But what is the point in being good?

Following the law so you don’t get sent to prison is a good motive to not be a criminal. But laws are made by humans & we still have an immense amount to figure out as a species. What if you want to be euthanised or have an abortion in a country where those acts are illegal but you fundamentally believe those acts are fine? Then you are being oppressed by the law and, therefore, a law breaking person is not necessarily a bad person. In the same vain, a law abiding person can perfectly legally spend their lives burning ants.

Reaching a good afterlife is argued by religious people as the reason to act good. But multiple religions condemn sex before marriage even though there is literally no problem of sex between two consenting adults and that marriage can be argued to be a misogynistic concept anyway. Living a righteous life how someone is able to enter The Good Place but (as depicted in the show), acting good with your selfish benefit in mind is still a selfish act- no matter how “good” your act is and therefore no extra points are received when characters attempt this. In reality, we are not given definitive proof that there is an afterlife and choosing which moral code to follow is your choice. Life could be all there is and therefore adhering completely to a religious text may be fruitless. I implore anyone to prove that wrong. As Bo Burnham sings “Maybe life on Earth could be Heaven, doesn’t just the thought of it make it worth a try?”.

Altruism is the concern for the well-being of others, selflessly or even at your own expense. Giving a homeless person change is an altruistic act. Even animals act altruistically and therefore altruism is an aspect of nature. Why be altruistic when it can cause our own loss for the gain of others? Does altruism defy Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” theory of natural selection? No. It is reciprocal. The homeless person who you gave change to is now more likely to defend you in a fight. Your intent may not have been to increase that likelihood but it has undeniably increased nonetheless. If you’re a fan of Friends, you know that there is no such thing as a “selfless good deed”. But, just because you gain something like a tiny serotonin boost from donating to charity, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t donate to charity. Obviously, the opposite is true! An altruistic, well intentioned good deed follows the utilitarian attitude of causing “The greatest happiness for the greatest number of people” and deontological perspective that if the whole would did that deed then it would benefit society.

Photo on Make a GIF

Acting with good-intentioned altruism benefits others, yourself and the world.

(I still don’t think that final statement is the perfect answer but it’s a nice note to end on, I guess. If you came here thinking I’m gonna solve some major philosophical concept that has been examined by thinkers for thousands of years then that’s on you)

Community- Exploring Parallel Universes

(Spoiler Warning for Community)

Everything that has lead up to this very second which you are are living in right now is based on choices made by yourself, other people and by universal happenings (like matter and anti-matter clashing to create The Big Bang or the Earth forming just as far, yet also just as near to the Sun in order for it to be a hospitable planet.) Your most recent of such choices was your the decision to click on this blog post rather than scroll past.

If we were to follow the Many-Worlds Theory, that asserts that there exists an infinite number of universes in which every possible outcome is physically realised, then there exists a universe exactly like this one with the only difference being that you didn’t click this post.

Growing up, I had this morbid belief that every second I’m dying in an infinite number of ways in an infinite number of universes and to my (enormously limited) knowledge of quantum mechanics, I’m pretty sure current science supports the idea that this is happening. In the same respect, there’s an infinite number of universes where I’m winning the lottery. So I guess its not all doom and gloom.

People always fantasise over how different life would be if their important life choices were different. The hypothetical existence of parallel universes/alternate realities implies that the consequences of such actions are playing out somewhere in reality. Like what if you followed different dreams or what they left Star Wars alone after Return of the Jedi. (That second one probably achieved world peace). Often this comes from a place of regret and guilt over what could have been if you did things differently or from a sense of pride when threating over how worse your life would be if a great thing from your past didn’t happen.

How would Doctor Strange be affected by the Sokovia Accords? - Quora

Community

This brings me onto a brilliant show that I’ve been binging called Community. Apparently this sitcom is massive in America but I never really heard of this gem until I began watching so bare with me whilst I British-splain Community‘s premise.

Set in a community college, Community follows the lives of seven adult students in what, at first, appears to be a normal Friends-like sitcom. It quickly becomes apparent that this show is a subversive and meta anti-sitcom in its avoidance of falling into tropey narratives. So much so that one of its main characters, Abed, is frequently calling out whenever a TV or movie trope/cliché is being employed.

abed nadir gifs | WiffleGif

Community is written by Rick and Morty co-creator (Dan Harmon) and it is produced by the directors of both Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame (The Russo Brothers). Upon learning this, it came as no surprise to me when Community began to tread into the realm of alternative timelines as this is the backbone of Rick and Morty, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

In Community’s critically acclaimed episode, Remedial Chaos Theory, a pizza delivery man arrives and Jeff Winger throws a dice to decide which member of the friend group answers the door. Abed claims that, by throwing the dice, Jeff is creating 6 alternate timelines which will spiral off based on the result of the roll. Each timeline is disturbed by the absence of the person who goes to answer the door and descends into different levels of chaos during each result until “The Darkest Timeline” is created when a six is rolled and Troy becomes the one to answer the door. “The Darkest Timeline” ends in disaster with Troy and Abed’s apartment burning down, Pierce dying, Jeff losing his arm, Shirly becoming an alcoholic, Annie being sent to a mental health facility, Troy losing his larynx and Britta putting a blue streak in her hair. Equilibrium is found in the timeline where Abed catches the dice mid-roll.

Community Party Foul Fail Fire GIF | Gfycat

This implies that the tiniest of acts can have a myriad of different consequences. And, it goes without saying that, you are in control of your own decisions and therefore what timeline you will follow. So what should we do with this information? I suppose most would recommend that you be all carpe diem, acting spontaneously and confidently in order to force yourself into the best timeline. Thinking of moving to Antarctica and living with penguins? “CLOSE THIS TAB AND BUY A FLIGHT TO ANTARICA NOW!”. I’m not here to push that kind of attitude.

Although fear and anxiety can hold us back from changing our lives for the better acting on impulse can, in the same vain, affect what you already have. Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, argues that “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom” and that although it can make us feel hopeless, our anxieties and apprehensions exist to make us aware as to what our potential choices are and what the consequences of such actions would be (in each parallel universe that they are performed in). They make us more personally responsible and considerate. This isn’t intended to implore you into a state of angst over whether a choice, as little as making a bowl of Frosties, will destroy your life (unless you live in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) but I do resent the attitude of living like there’s no tomorrow with little consideration of the consequences.

My 'Bandersnatch' experience

Living in your comfort-zone could lead to a lonely & unfulfilled life that’s full of regret and living spontaneously could be risky. The key is to find a happy-medium in being methodical and thoughtful about your important choices. Still go and live in Antarctica if that’s your thing but research what it is like to live there and make sure you can sustain yourself. In terms of myself, I could have spontaneously bounced straight from university into a masters degree that I can’t afford but, instead, I’m taking a gap year in order to save up and study one next year. Maybe I’ll get a job I love and hold off on the masters for ten more years or maybe I’ll find £3,000 in the street and sign up now. All of those possibilities will happen in a universe somewhere (If the Many Worlds Theory is true).

Ultimately, life advice can’t be summarised into cliché quotes like “Live each day like it’s your last” because actions have consequences. If you chucked all your money into a week straight of skydiving, you’d probably get your house repossessed. But also never hold yourself back from what you truly want in life, just be wise to whether it’s a smart choice and to steps of how to get there.

The “Better version of you”

I’ve spoken about parallel universes that will come from the decisions we will make but what about those universes which harbour the alternatives to decisions we have already made?

Sci-fi loves exploring this trope and main characters often feel inadequate and resentful to their alternate versions of themselves who have already achieved the goals that the protagonists are working towards. And this is always due to one different decision that separates them. (Like how Futurama’s Fry is jealous of alternate Fry who’s married to Leela or how Red Dwarf’s Lister is jealous of alternate Lister who’s married to Kochanski… They’re the same show!)

This is the case in the I̶n̶s̶p̶e̶c̶t̶o̶r̶ ̶S̶p̶a̶c̶e̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ Doctor Who episodes Rise of the Cybermen and Age of Steel. In the universe that the Doctor, Rose and Mickey land in, they discover that Rose’s father is still alive and he became a successful businessman. Upon discovering that her alternate parents live in a mansion, daughterless (Owning a dog named Rose instead), Rose begins blaming herself for her real mother being widowed and living in a council estate. She later finds that her alternate reality parents are unhappy, divorced and that her parallel universe mother longs for a daughter. (And that world also gets destroyed by cybermen, which doesn’t make it the greatest timeline).

The grass is always greener on the other side. Though you may regret a choice, the parallel universe version of you (who made that choice) may wish that they had your life. Own the choices you have made for they have had a large role in making you the person that you are today and you can not change the past.

And if you truly feel that you are living in “The Darkest Timeline”, just create a portal to a nicer timeline and take over the life of your parallel self instead. Simple!

Torchwood (and Doctor Who)- Life’s a B*tch and Then You Live Forever

Forever is a horrible word. It’s wrong. Nothing lasts forever.

But what if something did? And what if that something was a person?

GIF tenth doctor doctor who forever - animated GIF on GIFER - by Windshade1k gifs doctor who dw Catherine Tate Donna Noble journey's end dwedit rtd  era rtdedit I cried so much while doing it mollyhopoer •

Spoiler Warning for Torchwood and Doctor Who

Torchwood is a spin-off TV show from the long running sci-fi series, Doctor Who. It’s a show that really goes out of its way to assert itself as an adult programme. So much so that the villain of its second ever episode was an alien which worked in the same way as an STD.

torchwood gifs | Tumblr

With its more liberal potential for storyline exploration than its parent show came a series that often showcased the dark repercussions of its sci-fi concepts. This post will focus upon the differing ideas of immortality that are presented to us in the Doctor Who universe. Namely Torchwood’s representations of the concept will be explored here but some of Doctor Who’s takes on immortality will feature here as well.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Before I get into the Torchwood/Doctor Who aspect of this post, I just wanted to give a mention to the Stephen Spielberg movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence. (Spoiler warning for the film’s ending here).

A.I. Artificial Intelligence follows a robot boy, called David, who is very close to being a human but his none-human qualities become his downfall. Ultimately, David outlives humanity and is doomed to an eternity of loneliness. His “mother” gets revived during this eternity but is only able to return for a day & never again. That ending terrified me growing up. I think it was intended to be bittersweet but, to young me, was an existential nightmare.

Honestly, I can think of nothing worse than being immortal because of the repercussions that would entail. (Last spoiler here: This blog post is about to explore those repercussions!).

Captain Jack Harkness- Tortured Immortal

When Rose Tyler absorbed the heart of the time vortex, she brought Captain Jack Harkness back to life after a Dalek had exterminated him. John Barrowman: Captain Jack's crazy Doctor Who and Torchwood ...

But she didn’t just bring him back to life, she brought him back to life forever. Living forever sounds great at a glance but leads to so much agony and heartbreak.

Captain Jack’s immortality is similar to that of Marvel superhero Deadpool in his ability to feel pain but with a body that fixes itself. Due to this, Jack Harkness has been: shot, electrocuted, had his life absorbed by the devil’s son, killed repeatedly whilst imprisoned for a year, pushed off a building, killed by “death”, killed by a broken bottle, blown up, stabbed and suffocated in a concreate prison.

I don’t know about you but that sounds like a lot of pain for one man to endure! And that’s just physical pain. Captain Jack has to bare witness to outliving every single person he cares about, alongside outliving every other person too for that matter! What a horrendous existence! He endures heartbreak after heartbreak though watching everyone he knows grow old and die; losing lovers, teams and even his grandson (who has to know Jack as an uncle due to Jack’s youthful appearance.)

Though his body reforms after anything, it also ages (incredibly slowly). As a result, there’s strong evidence to suggest that Jack will eventually become another popular Doctor Who character called The Face of Boe- after billions of years.

gifs doctor who dw the doctor ten Martha Jones the face of boe ...

I mean no disrespect to The Face of Boe when saying this but, imagine the process of turning into that thing in the gif! No thank you!

If he is The Face of Boe, that means that Jack will one day die as The Face of Boe dies in GridlockI take solace in that for his character.

Owen Harper- Breakable Immortal

Owen Harper being resurrected into a living corpse is the epitome of body horror. Once brought back to life after being shot, Owen is incapable of many bodily functions. No more can he sleep, breathe, swallow, digest, bleed or heal from wounds.

The danger of losing an irreplaceable part of your body becomes so much more horrifying when every part of your body becomes irreplaceable, coupled with the fact that you may have to deal with that loss forever. There’s an intense permanency to Owen’s fragile, undead state. Upon accidently cutting his hand with a scalpel, he has to stitch it back together…every week! He also breaks a finger which becomes bandaged up and unusable ever again.

Gore never really frightens me anywhere near as much as the implications of Owen’s decaying body does. The Santa Carlita Diet explores similar repercussions of being in an undead state when its zombie protagonist, Sheila, loses her finger. This concept sends shivers down my spine. I’m sure there’s probably a complicated word for this phobia.

Eventually, Owen does die (again!) after being incinerated in a nuclear meltdown. Now I’m not going to ponder the real life understanding of the soul or consciousness but my understanding is that Owen’s immortal (but not invulnerable) state existed, incapable of doing anything without a body…forever. Eerie.

Ashildr- Forgetful Immortal

Captain Jack Harkness was a human from the 51st Century before being made immortal. Therefore, he is presumably more evolved than you and I (Unless you’re living 3000 years in the future).

But what if a 9th Century Viking became immortal?

Aflawedfashion GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

This is exactly what happened to Ashildr when the Doctor resurrected her at the cost of her ability to die. She also does not age at all and would heal from injuries and illnesses which should kill a mortal being.

Ashildr’s fatal flaw is her memory. As she was born with a body that expected to have lifespan of a typical 9th Century person, the memory aspect of her brain is not capable of remembering events that happened centuries before. This gets to the point where she no longer remembers her birthname and refers to herself as “Me” as it’s easier to remember. To combat this, Ashildr journals her experiences into books and rips out pages which are to painful to read.

Pin on Let's Go BBC

Like Jack, Ashildr outlives all of her loved ones. Ultimately, she swears off being emotionally attached to anyone after centuries of heartache. This results in her losing sympathy for other people which is fundamental to understanding human emotions, including your own.

In the final 5 minutes of the universe, she is shown to be the only being alive and remarks that watching stars die is a beautiful sight. Before the universe ends completely, she boards the Doctor’s TARDIS to travel back in time and ultimately receives her own time machine.

This almost addressed a fundamental question I have about immortality. What happens when an immortal person outlives the universe? Doctor Who’s cop-out of “she gets a time machine and flies back in time” is the closest I’ve ever seen to an answer.

Miracle Day- Everybody’s Immortal

Best Miracle Day GIFs | Gfycat

The premise for the 4th series of Torchwood, or Torchwood: Miracle Day, is that all human beings stop dying and this series of television shows the most harrowing repercussions of immortality within the Doctor Who universe.

It begins with a murderous peadophile, Oswald Danes, who is facing the death sentence by lethal injection on live television for his crimes, but he survives. Oswald then argues that this meant he’d served his punishment and legally wins his freedom with a force majeure argument that his survival is an act of God. Though Miracle Day was a 2011 serial, I remember a similar incident happened in real life in 2019 when a murderer serving a life sentence had died and came back to life. He tried arguing that this meant he’d served it yet didn’t win his case.

Unlike Jack Harkness these humans are not invulnerable. As a result, bodies can be completely destroyed yet still be alive and are capable of feeling pain. They also age normally. This, already nightmarish concept, peaks when the governments begin burning injured people to control the enormous population that the immortality “miracle” has caused.

Many issues arise in regards to the societal function of mass immortality such as hospitals filling as people who should have died become antibiotic resistant incubators of bacteria, dwindling resources. Alongside this, a global depression hits. Imagine how horrible it’d be to live through one of those! (To any future people reading, this post is being written during that corona thing all your history teachers go on about. Also, its just a recession here in 2020 at the moment, here’s to hoping that it doesn’t become a depression).

The Doctor- Lonely Immortal

The Loneliest Job in the Universe - Doctor Who Recap - Head Over Feels

Perhaps the most immortal (and therefore the most tragic immortal) is Doctor Who’s titular character, the Doctor.

From a real world perspective is impossible for the character of the Doctor to die and stay dead. The Doctor is the least likely to die out of anyone else in the franchise. I’ll go on record here and say that no writer has the power to kill off the Doctor permanently.

Modern franchises don’t seem to have conclusions. Even when they seem to end, they’ll be rebooted or revived 20 years down the line. Look at Star Wars, Marvel or Star Trek. Do you think their stories are finishing up anytime soon? But the difference is, none of those follow a singular protagonist like Doctor Who does. Luke Skywalker and Tony Stark can die but there will still be instalments after those characters pass on. This can’t happen when the Doctor’s “name” is in the title. The franchise would end at the Doctor’s death but the franchise can’t end because another writer would undoubtedly write him/her, and the franchise, back to life. It has been passed on through generations of showrunners and lead actors due to the revolutionary idea of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate. You can cancel the show and people will rely on novels or comics with the Doctor in, like during Doctor Who’s wilderness years

The character was initially recast into Patrick Troughton due to William Hartnell’s health under the notion that the Doctor is an alien who can reconstruct his body into an entirely new one upon death. To give stakes to the show, a 13 regeneration limit was imposed. However, this had to be extended from a narrative standpoint once the Doctor neared the limit in order to keep the show running. As of The Timeless Child episode, one can assume that the Doctor has countless regenerations.

The Birth of a Whovian | Doctor Who with Cast & Crew Amino

His/her immortality is coupled with a police box-time machine to make life more bearable and exciting but even with the ability to experience everything that ever has been, or ever will be, what happens when the Doctor’s done all of that?

Like with the other immortal characters in the whoniverse, the Doctor struggles with the notion that their own lifespan supersedes all of their friends and that they watch people grow old before them whilst they, themselves, are free of such a concept. A real world explanation for the revolving door of side-kick companions is both down to actors leaving the show or for storytelling reasons.

Gif Doctor Who Matt Smith Mine Bbc Sad Lonely Doctorwho Dw Sad Doctor -  LowGif

The Doctor has experienced trauma unlike any other. They’ve been trapped alone for 4 billion years, lived with the guilt of destroying their own race for the sake of the universe and countless other scarring incidences of which I’d be here listing for a lifetime. It’s regularly reiterated that the Doctor “needs someone” by their side during adventures and mostly has a companion to accompany them. I believe this is to combat the intense loneliness the character feels (as the most immortal being). But he is doomed to certainly be parted from each of them in due course.

The Doctor Ends Up Alone | Doctor who tumblr, Doctor who, Doctor who tv

When one becomes immortal, it is a loss rather than a gain. I think that the loss of death must be the greatest loss one could ever suffer. Our time limit makes our lives worthwhile. To paraphrase Ashildr, life and the universe are beautiful because they are not forever. Live in the moment and be sure to enjoy your life, time goes fast and it’s the only one you’ll get…unless you’re a Time Lord or a Buddhist.

 

I’ll leave you with a final spine-chilling thought. It is possible that you could be immortal. You can never be 100% certain that you’re not the one anomaly of the human race who will walk the universe forever. Your strong estimation that you will one day die is based on the evidence of every human before you, but not actually based on yourself. You’re assuming rather than knowing unquestionably. (Please don’t test this out, statistically your strong estimation will turn out to be completely correct!)

Futurama- Time Travel is a Tragedy

(Spoiler Warning)

One thing I binged during lockdown was Futurama and it was an absolute delight! I’d never properly watched Futurama before, except for the Simpsorama crossover with The Simpsons, but lockdown gave me the opportunity to and I’m very glad it did!

homer GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

Its first episode begins with a slobby and childish D̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶L̶i̶s̶t̶e̶r̶ Philip J. Fry who gets cryogenically frozen and wakes up in the far future. There, he befriends a robot called K̶r̶y̶t̶e̶n̶ Bender and travels aboard the spaceship R̶e̶d̶ ̶D̶w̶a̶r̶f̶ Planet Express where he has a will they/won’t they relationship with K̶r̶i̶s̶t̶i̶n̶e̶ ̶K̶o̶c̶h̶a̶n̶s̶k̶i̶ Leela.

Sorry, that was a cheap shot. Its a lot more than an American rip-off of Red Dwarf but something tells me the writers may have taken a little inspiration.

Red Dwarf GIF - Red Dwarf - Discover & Share GIFs

Comparing Red Dwarf and Futurama lead me onto an epiphany that most of sci-fi is a big rip-off of one another. Rick and Morty seem to have borrowed a lot from Futurama whilst that whole show exists as a parody of Doc and Marty from Back to the Future. Then you have Star Wars, which rips-off itself more than anything else.

(I’m using the term “rip-off” very loosely and tongue-in-cheek here. For everything I mention in this post comes from a place of love and I think each are masterful in their own right. “Trope” is probably a better term to use.)

Doctor Who Futurama GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Time Travel is Tragic, Horrifying and full of Tropes

When your future becomes your present

When Futurma’s Fry awakens in the year 3000, everything he knows is gone and everyone he knew is dead. It provides him with an extreme fresh start in life but he is trapped and unable to return. When Lister from Red Dwarf leaves his stasis, he finds that the ships crew have been dead for 3 million years and similarly has to restart his life to this new normality. Both characters adapt to the changes around them because that is the best way to cope. Nothing stays the same forever.

gif 1k bbc my post The End sci fi holly series 1 Red Dwarf dave ...gif 1k bbc my post The End sci fi holly series 1 Red Dwarf dave ...gif 1k bbc my post The End sci fi holly series 1 Red Dwarf dave ...gif 1k bbc my post The End sci fi holly series 1 Red Dwarf dave ...gif 1k bbc my post The End sci fi holly series 1 Red Dwarf dave ...gif 1k bbc my post The End sci fi holly series 1 Red Dwarf dave ...

If we apply this to ourselves, our own world and lives are completely different to that of a decade ago. Time is constantly moving which makes living in the moment so monumentally important. We can never literally go back to how life was so living in the past is futile and embracing the now should take priority.

Waiting

Now, my main point is that many of Futurama’s time-travel/flashback episodes are poignant and existential. Jurassic Bark is often cited as the best Futurama episode in its depiction of Fry’s dog, Seymore, being left behind after Fry gets thrusted 1000 years into the future. Fry has the option to bring Seymore back to life but decides against it after learning Seymore lived for 15 years after his departure. Fry assumes that Seymore must have forgotten about him but Seymore didn’t forget. Seymore never forgot.

Waiting, in time-travel fiction, always strikes me in an unnerving way. Steven Moffat’s era of Doctor Who regularly touched on this idea with Amelia Pond waiting 22 years for the Doctor to return from a 5 minute trip in The Eleventh Hour or Rory Williams waiting 2000 years protecting Amy and the Pandorica in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (and more examples that I will explore next). Why this idea scares me so much is because the characters who are waiting, like Seymore, experience time travel in the same way we do. The “present” is a runaway train to the future. Waiting around is boring, the potential that the thing you’re waiting for may never come could make it a waste and the steadily creeping nature of our limited lifetime is terrifying.

Krusty the clown leela simpsorama GIF on GIFER - by Bladeflame

Waiting and Aging

This idea of waiting is furthered in The Late Philip J. Fry wherein Fry and Leela are supposed to be going on a date but just before he’s about to leave, Professor Farnsworth asks Fry to help test his time machine. He promises “it will only be a minute” which ends up being the understatement of the millennia as Farnsworth, Fry and Bender accidently end up experiencing everything that ever will be. All the while, Leela is being stood up on her date because Fry is stuck trillions of years in the future. In that timeline, Leela grows old without Fry and only discovers the truth of what happened when she’s in her 60’s.

comb.io - The Late Philip J. Frymy gif 1k doctor who amy pond mine Rory Williams Gif: Doctor Who ...

Leela’s aging reminded me of another two Doctor Who episodes in relation to the idea of waiting. In The Doctor’s Wife, Rory gets stuck in a different time stream and ages to an incredibly old age and turns bitter. Likewise, in The Girl Who Waited, Amy becomes trapped on the planet Apalapucia for 36 years, which also turns her old and bitter. Age is a reminder of the inevitability of death with wrinkles and grey hair existing as time scars which are more daunting when juxtaposed against younger incarnations of these characters we’ve familiarised ourselves with. Most prevalently heart-breaking is not the fact that Leela, Amy and Rory grew closer to death but the loneliness that their extreme waiting entailed. Leela was forced to live without Fry just as Amy and Rory were forced to live without one another. Both couples (can I call them couples here? They’re massively separated) are powerless victims of circumstance who had their potential lives together torn away.

In each episode’s conclusion, everything was put right so don’t worry! (Even though, in the timelines where Leela and Amy Pond get old, they were just left and forgotten for younger versions so I question how “put right” it truly was. You could definitely do some feminist reading into that because, yikes!).

Jealousy over your future self

Unlike the previous two time-travel tropes, this one is not necessarily tragic or existentially scary. It entails the present version of a flawed protagonist who meets a matured, future version of themselves that has achieved everything they desire yet not initially knowing the identify of their future self so harbouring ironic resentment, jealousy and inadequacy against (what turns out to be) themselves.

In the Futurama episode Bender’s Big Score, Leela enters a serious relationship with a bald man named Lars. Fry takes a strong dislike to Lars and becomes very jealous of him, especially since the Leela and Lars become engaged. Due to another plotline of scammers figuring out time travel, Fry ends up stuck back in the past during the year 2000. During this time, he cares for an orphaned narwhal called Leelu for a decade. Then, when Fry’s house burns down, he loses all his hair and looks in the mirror to realise Lars was a future version of himself all along.

Futurama GIF by HULU - Find & Share on GIPHY

This storyline reminded me of the Red Dwarf episode, Stasis Leak. In this episode, Lister discovers a photograph from the future of himself, Kochanski and another man. Kochanski is wearing a wedding dress in this image so Lister assumes they will both get married one day. He later enters this future time period at Kochanski’s honeymoon suit to discover a “do not disturb sign” on the door. Lister then assumes it was the other man in the image who Kochanski married and laments on his failed love life. Their door then opens to reveal a newly married Kochanski and future Lister who kick present Lister out of the hotel.

Pin by Ben Sies on Red Dwarf | Red dwarf tv, Red dwarf, Book genres

Another show this Futurama episode reminded me of is the third series of Misfits when a mysterious, hooded free running superhero turns out the be a future version of the insecure and socially-anxious Simon. This is a dramatic character shift yet it becomes realistic as, to become the best version of him, all Simon needed was self-belief.

The message I take from this trope, that I will take liberties with in application to real life, is that once a person overcomes their weaknesses and faults through self-improvement and self-love life will get better for them. So much better to the point where a bitter past version of you would be jealous of you. Of course it’s not as black and white as this, there will be setbacks in your life but I’m talking in minor terms about basic tasks. Tasks like cleaning your bedroom, exercising or dressing better.

The Grandfather Paradox and The Bootstrap Paradox

The Grandfather Paradox theorises that if you go back in time and kill your grandad, you won’t be born. But if you’re not born then you won’t be able to go back in time to kill him so you will be born and will go back in time to kill him (in a loop forever).

Another hypothesised paradox, which interfering with the past could entail, is The Bootstrap Paradox. This is where you go back in time for a reason but find that that reason is not there and then you create the event you came back in time for in the first place. Doctor Who put it a lot better than I just have with its Beethoven example:

A big Beethoven fan goes back in time to meet Beethoven but can’t find him anywhere, Beethoven (in this example) doesn’t exist. So he plays Beethoven’s music under the fake name of Beethoven, becoming Beethoven and history is fixed.

In the Futurama episode Roswell That Ends Well, Fry becomes guilty of such an act when the crew travel back to 1947. Upon meeting a young version of his grandfather, Fry desperately attempts to save his grandfather from any danger and dissuade his homosexual tendencies to ensure his birth.

comb.io - Roswell That Ends Well

Fry’s grandfather then gets blown up by a nuclear bomb and, when confronting his grandmother to tell her the news, accidently becomes his own grandfather himself in a bootstrap paradox. Which is wrong on so many levels.

Red Dwarf has its own version of a bootstrap paradox in the episode Ouroboros. Lister, as a baby, was found in a box with “Ouroboros” written on the side and an image of a snake eating its tail. The finders of the box assume the parents were conflicted on whether to name him Rob or Ross. In reality Ouroboros is a symbol which represents an infinite loop. Later in the episode, Lister sees the box after fathering a child and realises that his child is himself and travels back to place the box back to where it will be discovered & where Ouroboros will be misunderstood as “Our Rob or Ross”.

These episodes are strange and present concepts which do become illogical when applying thought. However, Avengers: Endgame explained a differing theory (based on a currently popular theory in quantum physics) as to how time travel would work which would prevent such impossible paradoxes. It suggests that changing the past would derail that timeline into events which would run parallel to the universe you travelled back from. If time travel gets invented, that’s my guess as to how it would work.

 Altering the past for the perfect future

Hot take here but, to me, the most emotional episode of Futurama is its final episode (or if its been uncancelled again, the final episode of season 7). In Meanwhile, Fry gets his hands of Professor Farnzworth’s new time button invention which allows the user to rewind the universe by 10 seconds. Fry wants to use the device in his marriage proposal to Leela in order to make the sunset last for as long as they want during their rooftop meal. This time button hijinks concludes with Leela and Fry having frozen all of time except themselves before accidently breaking the button. They live their whole lives together with the entire world to themselves. Ultimately, the professor appears and offers them a chance to go back to how their lives were before the button by sacrificing the memory of the time they had together. Fry and Leela both accept this offer by agreeing to “go round again”.

fry and leela gifs | WiffleGif

It is such a touching end for the series which leaves it open for future instalments whiles also providing closure if more episodes are not made. This episode pinpoints both the advantages for time manipulation and the dangers of it.

Of course the Rick and Morty episode The Vat of Acid Episode reminds me of Meanwhile but with a devastating and heartbreaking conclusion. However, I’d rather talk about another use of the “manipulating a perfect future” trope in the film About Time (2013).

Tim, the protagonist of About Time, is able to time travel and change any event from his past. That sounds perfect at face value as you’re able to redo dates until you act perfectly or revisit dead loved ones but (without spoiling the film) the intricacies and consequences of this are harrowing.

Its important for us to accept our past and forgive our personal mistakes. There is no changing what has happened in the real world and if we could change things then that doesn’t mean we should.

About time GIF on GIFER - by Miranaya

Overall, I feel that the time travel episodes of Futurama are the ones where the show is at its strongest. Just becuase you can draw similarities to time travel media in the past, doesn’t mean these episodes which use tropes are invalid. They provide the ability to compare and contrast whilst the writers bring their own take to each idea. Also, the fact that such topics that are related to time travel have repeatedly been explored shows the imporance of such dillemas and occurances if we do end up flying Delorians and TARDISes around.

‘The Midnight Gospel’ is Mental Liberation

The Midnight Gospel is therapeutic.

During lockdown, one of my mates recommended a Netflix series called The Midnight Gospel to me. I’m a big fan of existentialism and philosophical thinking so this show was right up my street.

Before watching, I heard a lot about the profound impact this animation has had upon its audiences by altering their perspectives on life and disillusioning them from ideas that have been pushed into them their whole lives. It definitely had such an effect on me to the extent that it helped me come closer to freeing my “self” (I was going to write “freeing my mind” but its about the relationship between the mind and body) . I wouldn’t be writing this blog post otherwise.

Also, I’m hyper-aware of how pretentious I’m sounding right now but stay with me here! I’m not into spiritualism or religion but the teachings from both that The Midnight Gospel imparts are very helpful mentally. That’s where I’m coming from with this, a mental health/existentialism stance.

The Midnight Gospel is very easy to digest in that each episode is 20 minutes long and there are only 8 of them. (From the get-go, that’s a win to me). It is essentially a series of short podcasts that have been adapted from The Duncan Trussell Family Hour and animated to psychedelic imagery and with a storyline that follows an interdimensional podcaster called Clancy.  Each episode contains a deep and informed conversation about broad subjects like forgiveness, meditation and drugs. For a large part of The Midnight Gospel, mindfulness and death are the topics at hand which I love about it!

I watched The Midnight Gospel sober but it is very evident that its intended audiences are stoners and people high on acid. When a conversation hits a peak and something poignant has been said, there are 1-2 minute long none conversational sequences of a random event happening which I assume are there to give you time to ponder on what has been said and apply it to your own life/experiences whilst also stimulating people who are high during their contemplation. For me, these sequences were a little annoying and lengthy but, as a sober viewer, I’m not the intended audience of those parts.

Now, I’m not here to repeat the messages that have been said on the show. I massively recommend you check out The Midnight Gospel to hear its messages itself. My intention here is to highlight aspects which stood out to me and give my own take on them.

“The moment you accept things as they are, you don’t need hope anymore, you realise where you are is kind of ok.”

To me, the idea that hope is a flawed concept which corrupts people by making them strive towards an idealised future is not a new one. This time last year, I was helped greatly by reading Mark Manson’s Everything’s F*cked which proposes that we won’t be content upon achieving what we hope for and will, instead, continue hoping further. The act of being present in the moment without your mind being distracted by worries from the past or future is so important to appreciating life.

Here's What The Cast Of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" Looks Like Now ...

The Midnight Gospel applies this idea of being present to listening. If, when conversing with someone, you harbour anxieties about the past or future then it can become difficult to listen and taken in what’s been said after a long period of time. I’ve struggled with this in the past during casual, relaxed situations and felt really guilty but powerless over my “zoning-out”. The trick is, according to The Midnight Gospel, to be in the moment and dedicate yourself to the person at hand. This is not just for the purpose of listening in the tradition definition of hearing what is being said but understanding what is being said, who is saying it and their perspective. I think the master of this skill was Mr Rogers who was an incredible man who made each person he interacted with feel special by setting aside everything else in the world to the people in front of him at a given moment.

What *is* Mr Rogers responsible for? | therobynbirdsnest

“If we can learn to perceive and sense ourselves from the inside, our state of consciousness changes”

In the highly acclaimed final episode, advice is given on how exactly one does become present. Clancy’s mother explains that this is achieved by sensing ourselves from the inside and teaches us a technique wherein you:

  • Sense the inside of your index finger
  • Sense your whole hand
  • Sense your whole arm
  • Sense another arm as well
  • Sense a leg too
  • Sense both legs
  • Look and Listen

This is supposed to nudge you into a different dimension of consciousness wherein you are sensing your body foremost as opposed to your thoughts. I tried it myself and can confirm that this works!

Its a good meditation method and grounding technique. I recently learnt another grounding trick that relives anxiety in a moment which I’ve been using a lot in my day-to-day life. It’s simply rolling your shoulders and then neck stretches.

“There is no such thing as a good or bad drug, its the relationship that humans have with the substance that is the issue”

Yes.

Everyone bangs on about this quote when talking about The Midnight Gospel and that’s because it is true. In society, we are taught to perceive illegal substances as “bad drugs” and prescription drugs as “good drugs”. Alcohol is neither but a legal drug that most people use to take the edge off. It is backwards that alcohol is legal yet individuals who take it harbour dangerous and damaging behaviours than when on some other drugs that are illegal.

“People really try to avoid the consideration that they are going to die and that people they love are going to die”

To me, I think death is a really important topic for people to talk about with one another but I’ve barely been in positions where I’m able to talk about it. I don’t mean death as in remembering someone at a funeral, I mean the think we all have in common that on some random day each of us will become a corpse forever. That body you’re sat in right now, that’s wasting away the finite time you have on this planet by reading this blog post, will one day be a corpse. It can happen to anyone at anytime. The more we communicate our feelings about this, rather than repress them, the closer we come to acceptance of this reality.

Death anxiety is a topic that has been discussed a lot in philosophy and by psychoanalysts. I believe that subconsciously, everyone is petrified of death and every action they make is made with that (literally) in mind. People strive for fame or success because they want to be remembered. Others turn to religion for its guess at what happens after we die as the potential for nothing happening is too difficult of a concept to comprehend.

Dead Bart Simpson GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Ultimately, I can’t recommend The Midnight Gospel enough. It will challenge your perception on life. I found it to be a comforting watch that will purge your emotions, which sounds like an oxymoron but the purging of emotions and attachments do help to destress.