Tor.com content by

Emily Asher-Perrin

Captain Marvel Has a Funny Star Trek Easter Egg Hiding in Plain Sight

Spider-Man: Homecoming was the first Marvel film to make it clear that Star Trek and the MCU were (cheekily) closer than we thought, after Kevin Feige pushed for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home‘s “Punk on Bus” to appear in Queens during a scene in Homecoming, many decades after bothering Kirk and Spock on a San Francisco public bus. We thought that would be the end of it.

We should have known better.

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Why It’s Important to Consider Whether Dune Is a White Savior Narrative

Now that the cast is coming together, Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming adaptation of Dune is getting more attention than ever. And with that attention an interesting question has started cropping up with more frequency, one that bears further examination: Is Dune a “white savior” narrative?

It’s important to note that this is not a new question. Dune has been around for over half a century, and with every adaptation or popular revival, fans and critics take the time to interrogate how it plays into (or rebels against) certain story tropes and popular concepts, the white savior complex being central among them. While there are no blunt answers to that question—in part because Dune rests on a foundation of intense and layered worldbuilding—it is still an important one to engage and reengage with for one simple reason: All works of art, especially ones that we hold in high esteem, should be so carefully considered. Not because we need to tear them down or, conversely, enshrine them, but because we should all want to be more knowledgeable and thoughtful about how the stories we love contribute to our world, and the ways in which they choose to reflect it.

So what happens when we put Dune under this methodical scrutiny? If we peel back the layers, like the Mentats of Herbert’s story, what do we find?

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Russian Doll Reminds Us That We Can’t Help Others Until We Dismantle Our Own Demons

Our cultural approach to the subject of mental health has gotten somewhat healthier over the years. Where discussions of depression, anxiety, therapy, and medication used to be taboo, we are now encouraged (in some spheres, at least) to speak more openly, to connect and reassure each other that no one is alone in these struggles. Celebrities are praised for speaking about mental health in award acceptance speeches; some companies offer mental health days in addition to their sick day policies; scientists are learning that most human beings go through dips and valleys in their mental well being at some point in their lives. As this becomes more common and accepted, it only stands to reason that our stories should reflect this seismic shift—and new Netflix standout Russian Doll aspires to do just that with startling clarity.

[Spoilers for Russian Doll season one.]

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How Do You “See” the Books You Read?

Inevitably, when someone is trying to advocate reading over watching things on screens, some variation of this old joke gets made: “Books are like movies inside your head!” This assumes everyone can—and does—create a full mental picture when they read, complete with sets, landscapes, costumed characters, and easy-to-follow action.

But that’s not how it works for me.

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How She-Ra, Steven Universe, and the World of Animation Speak to My Genderfluidity

When I was very little, I wanted to be a girl.

This was super useful because—according to the world—that’s what I was. When I watched The Little Mermaid, when I read books about Miss Rumphius, or The Moon Lady, or the little girl who wanted to give Corduroy a new button, I was perfectly happy in that skin. Being a girl was full of possibility.

But that feeling didn’t last.

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How to Handle the Baron Harkonnen in a Modern Dune Adaptation

As Denis Villeneuve’s Dune beings to take shape, I find myself with all sorts of questions. Can they condense such a complex novel into one or two films and do it justice? Will they change too many core themes, making the story unrecognizable? Where will all that hefty exposition come from? But upon hearing the casting of Stellan Skarsgård in the role of Baron Harkonnen, those questions rapidly filtered down to one:

Is this going to work?

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Alita: Battle Angel Can’t Find Its Cyborg Heart, Relies on Visual Style and Sentimentality Instead

A project that has been well over a decade in the making, Alita: Battle Angel is based on a 1990s manga and anime that centers on a cyborg teenage girl trying to remember her past. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s less-than-optimal track record in adapting from these mediums holds stronger than ever. Though writers James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis had years to develop their script, and eventually brought Robert Rodriguez on board as director, Alita is a muddled film that packs in action at the expense of substance and relies on Cameron’s worst storytelling impulses.

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Glass Is an Unnecessary Sequel that Undercuts Unbreakable

M. Night Shyamalan has had nearly twenty years to perfect any ideas he may have been tossing around for an Unbreakable sequel, and following the success of Split—which was set in the same universe—it was only a matter of time before Mr. Glass and David Dunn resurfaced. Sadly, everything that made Unbreakable one of the better ruminations on superhero archetypes on film is missing from Glass, which despite impressive performances manages to be neither as surprising, nor as thoughtful, as its predecessor.

[Spoilers for Glass, Split, and Unbreakable contained within.]

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Bad Dads Make for Family-Friendly Drama, But Bad Moms Are the Stuff of Nightmares

Hollywood seems to have a thing for struggling fathers, running the gamut from hapless or distant to downright sinister. The trope is so common that it permeates every genre of fiction regardless of tone—even family-friendly fare like Mary Poppins Returns centers on a father’s inability to keep his family above water following the death of his wife.

I don’t think these stories are bad by virtue of their very existence—for some, they may even offer some much-needed catharsis—but their ubiquity is a bit troubling, especially when compared to how stories about women who struggle with parenting are often framed.

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The Federation Allowed Families On Starships to Keep Starfleet Enlistment Up

If you’ve watched Star Trek: The Next Generation, it has probably occurred to you that keeping families on a starship is a questionable practice. The Enterprise-D is constantly heading into dangerous situations, and while we can assume that there are protocols in place to keep the kiddies feeling safe and cared for, you have to wonder who thought this was such a brilliant idea to begin with.

Turns out the answer is: probably the Federation?

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A Realtime Breakdown On How Pottermore Made the Chamber of Secrets Weird For Me

Leah dropped a tweet into Slack with an “ummmm” affixed beforehand:

I did some telltale nerdly throat-clearing and gamely told her that this information was not new; it had been published on Pottermore in a larger piece about the history of the Chamber of Secrets several months ago, and I kept avoiding it because of how angry it made me. Because it makes no sense, and also, it ruins one of my favorite headcanons about the Potter series.

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