Friday, May 22, 2015

KP EbE - All About Me (Title Sequence)

Remember how I said I might get to this "tomorrow" thirteen days ago?  Oops.

Anyway, not sure at the outset how much there is to work with here.  I originally intended to have this and the theme song be in the same post, after all.

I said, when discussing the theme song, that Kim is a power fantasy.  There's nothing wrong with that, there ought to be more power fantasies for girls and women (and gender non binary people too), and the title sequence/opening credits really plays that up.  It's dominated by Kim kicking ass and taking names (well, not so much the name taking), with being popular and pretty sprinkled in.

First we get a screen that looks all technical because it's got green lines and random numbers at the top and Kim is in green outline and there's a list of phrases:

The phrases read:
"Fear not" is a non-sequitur.  Everything else is about her.  There's almost a fixed pattern so that they could all fit in the same syntactic box, but not quite.  Regardless, we get About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, About Kim, Imperative, About Kim.  Little bit odd there, but it's a decent information dump.

Though they don't update it until the show gets canceled and then uncancelled so "High School Sophomore," has a margin of error of ±1 year.  Also seldom is she the world's last hope.  In fact, when the world is at stake it's always someone else who comes through in the end.  When things are at a global level it tends to be the case that she's the last hope of the world order.  She's preventing regime change.  Preserving the status quo rather than doing any real world saving.

It's a minor quibble though.

So, let us move on.

When I mentioned that Kim was not in fact the basic average girl that the theme song described her as a couple of people in the comments put forward what being normal probably means in this context:
white, upper-middle-class, American, cis-gender, heterosexual, and in high school
'middle class neurotypical/mentally well American cis hetero girl'. Possibly with 'white' added on to it, actually very possibly, although that makes me cringe.

We have two winners.  Kim is white, cisgender, heterosexual, American, upper middle class, mentally healthy, neurotypical, and attends a public high school.

Those are Kim's mission clothes.  She actually wears more on missions (usually she goes sleeveless), unlike most female heroes.  That's sensible.  Mind you she's still in a crop top with three quarter length sleeves so there's plenty of skin to get scraped up.

A note on the animation style: only female characters have their lips shown, and then only the upper lip.  Most of the time this works just fine.  Some of the time, generally when they did a poor job of matching Kim's colors to a dark scene, it looks like Kim has a bright orange mustache from drinking glowing super-Tang.  So, be prepared for that in the future.

[Added:] Alert reader WanderingUndine notes that Gill, who we'll meet in episode 11, was one male character who had his upper lip drawn even before he mutated into a fish monster. [/added]

The title sequence contains a lot of running around and swinging around the giant letters of "Kim Possible" while doing average girl things like dodging energy weapons.  There's not a lot to take from that beyond it could have been edited together better, so I'm only going to show a picture, say three sentences, and then ignore all the rest of it, in spite of how much relative time it takes up:

The beam is hitting where she was, she jumped that high via handspring.  She is very athletic.  What I mean about editing can be seen in that you can actually see elements of the background of the scene that shot was lifted from near the beam, and her grappling hook launcher will change color throughout.

Kim's a cheerleader.  Kim is the head cheerleader.  Kim is the best cheerleader.  As stated before, actual high schools vary wildly when it comes to social structure or lack thereof.  That said, in fictional high school social structure that puts Kim at the tippity top.

I don't think this is necessarily a bad choice, power fantasy and all that.  Batman isn't just someone who fights crime in his free time, he's a popular, well-loved, handsome, rich (inherited so no new-money social taint), playboy, [more things here] Mary Sue.

I do think that there's a bit of a missed opportunity here though.  I'm reminded of the Beatles.  When the Beatles first became famous they did it in America.  They're not Americans.  What this meant was that they would come to this side of the pond, play sold out concerts to screaming devoted fans, basically be on top of the world where they could get whatever they wanted just by asking, and then they'd go home.  Home to a country where no one really knew of their fame and people thought they were making shit up if they tried to tell anyone what it was like for them over here.

Obviously, eventually their fame did follow them back to their homeland, but at the beginning they described it as like being in two different worlds.  Here they were celebrities, there they were nobodies.  Not unpopular nobodies, but unremarkable ones.

It's a dynamic that ought to be explored more.  As is the closest we tend to see is superheroes with masks.  Spiderman is famous, Peter Parker not so much.  But it falls apart because Spiderman doesn't meet people; Spiderman doesn't mingle; Spiderman doesn't go to coffee shops.  Spiderman is always aloof.  (It's hard to maintain a secret identity if you're at the center of the social scene.)  It's not so much living in two worlds as having a job that's famous even though you are not.

To a very limited extent the show does explore it, but it does it with Ron.  Except... Ron isn't famous; Ron isn't popular.  Ron is a key component of Team Possible but most people don't know who he is; there is only one villain that (almost) never forgets his name as compared to all the rest who can never be bothered to remember; the most devoted Kim Possible fan on earth has no idea who Ron is; so on, so forth.

Ron saves the world as a nobody and then comes home to be a nobody there too.

This next shot I'm showing just because it's downright weird.  The theme song starts with a bit of instrumental, the words start at about when the cheer scene starts but when it hits "girl" in, "I'm your basic average girl," it switches to this:

Seems sensible enough, the green shirt is part of Kim's standard street clothes, the background is in fact the dining room at Kim's house.  If you're trying to go with "basic average girl" showing Kim in her average girl clothes sitting around the table with family seems to make sense.  Just one problem.  That's not a shot of Kim.

That's Ron.  There's going to be a lot to say about the Kim Possible version of Freaky Friday/the incarnation when we get to episode 6, the body switching fun and games, but for now it's just worth knowing that that is not a girl.

Well, probably not.  Canonically not.  I do think that there's a bit to suggest Ron isn't exactly cisgender, but I don't think that's intended.  I think the parts where Ron comes off as not-cis aren't meant to be indicative of his gender identity but instead signs that he's weird.

Accidental non-cis Ron theories aside, if we take things as the creators seem to have intended, that's a boy in a girl's body.  It's someone who essentially became transgender via mad science and will continue to be transgender until the situation is reversed.  Very much not a girl.

Body does not dictate gender.

Unless you're whoever put together the title sequence.  What follows is known as "back of the envelop math"

The title sequence uses shots from episodes as late in production as number 13.  Given time and frame rate the episodes, minus the title sequence, run at about 30,000 frames (a bit more.)  Each frame is an image (it's progressive frame rate, not interlaced), that makes 390,000 images to choose from.

Given the time between when they switched bodies and switched back only about 19,392 of those frames were of the time when Ron was in Kim's body.  That leaves 370,608.  Except we rounded down to get the frames per episode, so it's more than that.  But, then again, not every frame has Kim in it.  Probably at least a third of them do though.

So, we've got maybe a hundred thousand images of a girl in a girl's body to choose from for when the theme song lands on "girl" but instead an image was chosen from the much, much smaller pool of images where that body housed a boy.

What the figurative fuck?

Managing to send the message that transboys are really girls because their body is more important than their identity in a show that doesn't have any trans characters and never even acknowledges that such individuals might exist is stunningly impressive assholistry,

Especially considering that it was probably done by accident.

It did, however, get noticed.  I wasn't paying attention to that shot at all until I read a discussion where someone pointed it out and then people came out of the woodwork to say, "Yeah, I noticed that and thought it was weird too."  A lot of people picked up on the fact that the "girl" was Ron even though they weren't doing a decon.

Ok, that was a tangent.

Back on target:

This shot goes with "and I'm here to save the world" in fact she's trying to save one person (which is just as noble and people realizing that could prevent scale creep in so many works) and it doesn't work out.  No, the person doesn't die.  The person wasn't a person.  She saved a dummy.

But it's the thought that counts, yes?

We get a couple more shots of her looking cool and heroic and then it's back to the brain switching, which is good because this instance lets me talk about an important disconnect between the title sequence and the show itself.

That is Kim in Ron's body hip checking Ron in Kim's body out of the scene so that she can preform a routine, which Ron had no hope of doing, during a cheer competition.

Also, she's giving Ron a dirty look for not being able to learn in one day what took Kim god knows how long to perfect.

It's one of three times in the credits sequence that Ron comes out looking vaguely competent and it's not even him.

Now the show is called "Kim Possible" not "Kim and Ron" so it's totally understandable the title sequence focuses on her, but it's important to remember that Kim isn't a solo act.  Kim is the head of a team and without that team she can't win.

The team is Kim, Ron, and Rufus.  Rufus is a naked mole rat and Ron's companion.  Rufus actually gets a good showing in the title sequence, but for the moment let's stick with Ron.

This is how we're shown Ron:

Ron loses his pants.  Ron losing his pants is a a running gag in the show.  I haven't kept a tally but I don't think it happened too much originally.  In fact, off the top of my head I can think of only two times it happened in Season 1.  So less than 10% of the time.  But every episode opens up with him losing his pants so in later seasons you'll have him being known as the person who loses his pants, have them come off for no good reason whatsoever (at least in season 1 it was because climbing equipment was attached to his belt which makes some sense unless you try to figure out the physics of the shot above) have him lose so much clothing that he starts to shiver and villain tells his henchmen to get the kid a towel, and finally have a super belt given to try to fix "the pants thing" be the critically important thing that allows Kim to regain her memories in the obligatory amnesia episode.

When Kim and Ron meet Kim's biggest fan, who happens to be one of her cousins, said fan knows every detail of every mission except for Ron.  No idea who he is.  Ron finally resorts to pulling out Rufus, who is instantly recognized, and Ron describes himself as the person in whose pocket Rufus is carried.  Finally, a faint glimmer of recognition, "Oh yeah, you're the one who's always losing his drawers."  (No, actually, that's the only part he's allowed to keep.)

One wonders if losing his pants would have become such a big thing in the show if they hadn't shown the above scene at the beginning of every episode.

Then we get Ron running scared (and oddly) while Kim keeps her cool:

That scene doesn't even appear in any episode.  They had to take Ron running scared solo and put it behind Kim running determined solo in order to create the contrast between Ron the scaredy cat and Kim the cool keeper.

Ron doesn't have his usual outfit or his usual haircut which makes it very easy to place where the "him running away" animation is from.  Deadly energy beams are being a shot at him.  Being scared is a reasonable reaction.  Kim is in her usual mission outfit which means the scene could have come from almost any episode.  For all I know she's not even in danger there.  (She usually does more acrobatics and less running when she's in mortal peril.)

[Added] And oops, I was wrong.  It does appear in a blink and you'll miss it way and the only significant change is that they swapped the direction.  However it's weird when it shows up.  The reason that I missed it is because it follows a "running, infiltration, hop over walls, dodge the searchlights" sequence in which Ron is running normally (pretty much the same way Kim is) and then suddenly for a brief bit at the end he suddenly switches into "this is how I run when I have to cross an open space with deadly energy blasts being shot at me and there's litterally nothing I can do to keep safe but pray" mode for no apparent reason.

Anyway, it's still scardy Ron against cool keeping Kim, even though in the context from which it's lifted Ron ... isn't actually afraid.  He's annoyed bordering on pissed off and will momentarily be bewildered.  No fear, yet the only other time he runs like that is when he comes inches from being blasted by a deadly energy beam.

Like I said, it's weird in context.  For now, though, context doesn't matter.  He's shown as afraid to Kim's cool headedness.[/added]

So, Ron loses his pants.  Ron runs away scared.  What else can we do?

I honestly don't even know what to do with that.  It seems to be from a deleted scene from the third episode.  Because of the whole "deleted" part of "deleted scene" I can't say much about it definitively but, given the context it appears in here it looks like Ron, who has severe pithecophobia due to being traumatized as a child, is responding to four monkeys trained as ninja lunging forward to attack him.

So, basically, his irrational fear is given form, dialed up to eleven, multiplied by four, and sent to kick his ass.  Note that irrational fears are so difficult to deal with because they're irrational.  Rational fears can be often be dealt with via rational means, irrational ones not so much.  So the foundation here is that Ron would be afraid even if he were seeing the nicest monkey on earth on the other side of bulletproof glass.  What's then added to that foundation is that these four are trained attack monkeys being sent to attack him, which ought to scare someone without an irrational fear of monkeys.

Not surprising he doesn't manage to put his best face forward.

We do get one shot of Ron that's unambiguously good:

Ron and Rufus high five after a job well done.  In context it is, perhaps, overly enthusiastic considering how little the job in question entailed.  Really it wasn't a job at all but more of a warm up, when it gets time to do the job, well...

That's the next Ron shot and it's from a bit later in the same episode.  Fearful Ron and Rufus being saved by Kim.

We started with Kim giving Ron a dirty look, so we should probably close with that, but first can we make Ron look silly and incompetent one more time?

Of course we can:

When dealing with Bond-level gadgets, wait for your personal Q to tell you what it does before fiddling.

Ok, so to close all of this Ron out, here's the last shot of him:

We'll get to talk about this relatively soon as it comes from the second episode.  The short version is this: Kim wanted a jacket she didn't need (the picture of it is taped to a nacho cheese dispenser) and so took a job she didn't want.  To take the edge off she decided to have Ron along.  She applied for the job for him without asking, and then emotionally manipulated him into taking it.

Then it turned out that Ron was really good at it and Kim wasn't.  He's managed to find joy and fulfillment in this, and Kim is pissed the fuck off at him for it.

Now that we've finished the Ron scenes, here's why I went through them:

Kim Possible is not, as the name sort of suggests, a show that centers on the exploits of Kim Possible.  It centers on the exploits of Team Possible.  Kim, Ron, and Rufus save the world.  They help each other with their social lives and school work.  They function as a unit.

The title sequence takes one third of the team, half of the human members, and cherry picks moments that show him in an extremely negative light.  With the exception of the Ron-Rufus high five the only time Ron is shown doing anything successfully is the shot immediately above this.  A shot where Kim is clearly not happy with Ron.

Kim having trouble with Ron's success is something that will come up a few times, but in general we see a team that works very well together.  Except for all that the team gets things done, it's Kim that gets the credit.

In-world we see this in the fact that no one even knows who Ron is.  Right here we see it in the title sequence.  Every episode begins with Ron losing his pants, Ron running scared, Ron with a look of [whatever you call that] and a terrified Ron being saved by Kim.

This is an even bigger disconnect when we consider that while the show is supposed to be about a strong female character with help from her friend, it ends up being Ron and Rufus to the rescue way more often than it should.  One theory, which I'll explore as we go through the episodes (or, at least, which I plan to explore) is that the show's creators didn't know how to do the strong female character protagonist thing and ended up accidentally letting the heroic role fall to Ron.

A quick, and possibly wrong, tally has Kim being the one to win in the end in seven of the twenty one episodes in Season 1.  Ron does just as well.  (With the final seven including one tie, one monkey, one ambiguity, and four times human males not on the team did it.)

Definitely Kim's impossible athletic skills are always a key component, but so are Wade's gadgets and so is Ron's goofy ability to distract.  (And Rufus being Rufus is vitally important.)

All of this goes together to deliver the twisted message that the only way for a female character to succeed is to tear a male character down.  Giving Kim all the credit while making Ron look like an incompetent coward is how Kim becomes the girl who can do anything.

That's fucked up.

The message could easily have been that you, female target audience, can do anything with a little help from your friends.

There's also just poor choice with regards to the things excerpted here in general.

Kim scores high on the looking heroic and looking cool points, but she doesn't get to do a lot of substantive stuff.  Saving Ron is her big moment really, moment two involves dynamite strapped to a snowmobile but without context you don't know that she managed to steer it away from an oil pipeline, you just know that she jumped off a vehicle that then exploded:

It absolutely looks cool, but you don't know what's going on so for all you know all she did was save her own skin.

The jetpack scene continues for long enough that you see her actually catch the dummy, so if you take a close look you realize that she wasn't actually saving anyone there.

Most of what Kim does is move.  She does a lot of jumping and swinging around a giant rendition of her name while dodging energy blasts, you know... running away.  In one excerpt it's even explicit because she's shown running from Shego's green plasma encased hands:

Don't get me wrong, she runs away well.  She's got awesome run away scenes that were used to make the title sequence, but if you really think about what you see it seems like all style, not so much substance.  She saves Ron, but given how incompetent he comes off, how hard could that be?

And while lack of context takes the significance away from the snowmobile scene, context makes other scenes worse for our hopefully-strong female character.

We see her facing off against robots, turns out her dad is going to be the key to victory that time.  In contrast to Ron losing his pants we see her scaling a wall after using her grappling hook successfully.  That mission ends in failure.  She rescues people who were being held captive, but they were only being held captive so there would be time for a robbery, and the robbery worked.  If she hadn't shown up they'd have been freed almost as fast.

We see her running through a school hall in a hurry as if there's something very urgent.  There is, but the urgent reason for her to disrupt everyone --knocking a girl's papers everywhere and accidentally kicking a boy's book out of his hands-- is that she waited until the last possible moment to print out her term paper.  Nothing heroic there.

We see her dramatically appearing as a safe opens.  Robbery stopped: good (though there were enough regular law enforcement people there that it probably could have been done without her.) Villains get away: Bad.

When she saved Ron?  It was because she almost dropped a giant robot on him.  (Though, to be fair, that could happen to anyone.)

We see four villains.  Two (Drakken and Shego) are a team, the other two (Monkey Fist and Gill) are Ron's villains.  Neither of Ron's is nearly as central as Drakken or Shego, but from the opening credits you wouldn't know that.

Here's a scene where she looks cool and determined and tough:

Context ruins it.  There's not even a fight.  She's captured without incident.

Without context the title sequence has Kim looking like a badass action hero (which she is) and Ron looking useless and stupid (which he isn't.)

With context the title sequence makes Kim look a lot less competent than she is and, oddly, makes it seem like Ron-centric villains (as opposed to Ron stealing the show vs. Kim villains) is an equal or larger part of the show than Kim-centric villains.

The whole thing is a mess.

So let's close with things that are nice.  Rufus:

It'a impossible to capture it with a still, but Rufus gets to do very impressive things with that stick.  His martial arts abilities are not to be underestimated.  He's also the on site mechanical genius and electronics wiz.

The voice-with-an-internet-connection hacker and gadget-maker is Wade:

While what they timed to "girl" in the song was bad, they did a good job with "Call me; beep me," including this shot:

So, anyway, that's all for now.


Monday, May 18, 2015

StarfirexRaven and the worry that I have somehow become trapped in teenage slash

The first time I found Kim Possible I was channel surfing, probably bored, and likely deep in the weeds of untreated depression.  The second time I found it I sort of slid sideways into the fandom and suddenly knew about the children of Shego and Kim and, and who they were shipped, with, and learned the history of the family for three generations (or some such) before I knew what hit me.

If you poke around at stuff eventually you come across a crossover (Magneto and Professor X manipulate Kim and Shego in various directions and then ... wait, wrong crossover) and then suddenly you find yourself sucked into another fandom.

Thus Teen Titans.  The titans of mythology are best known for choosing the sort of leader who would castrate his father and eat his own children, thus Robin leads the title characters of the show Teen Titans.  Teen Titans, which was adapted into a parody comic called, "Teen Titans, Go!" which was adapted into a TV show the kids like to watch all the time in spite of it having very little in the way of redeeming qualities, is about teens.  Half mechanical, half demon, all alien, or shape-shifting teens.  And Robin.

And, of course, it doesn't take much for Starfire/Raven to seem like a totally awesome pair:
At a meeting of the Titans: 
Starfire, full of joy and enthusiasm: Raven and I have something to tell you *pause for deep breath without which the following volume would be impossible* We Are Lesbians! 
*dead silence* 
Robin: Uh... Star, I don't think you're using the right word. 
Raven, her voice flat: Actually, she is. 
Starfire, continuing in enthusiasm and joy and generally gushing with feeling: We are the lovers now!  Are you not all so happy for us?  Is it not wonderful? 
*the other three look at Starfire and Raven in surprise*  
Cyborg: You're . . . 
Raven, voice still completely flat: We are.
But, back up a moment, end of the paragraph about the Teen Titans.  Alien teen.  Half-demon Teen.  I have no objection to demons (or half demons) dating aliens.  These things happen and we should respect the rights of consenting non-humans and semi-humans.  It's the teen part that gets me.

Now a good deal of Kim/Shego fiction takes place after the show, and for good reason.  Kim and Shego are probably five, six, or seven years apart.  No problem when they're in their twenties or thirties, but if you pair a 16 year old Kim with a Shego who just got her college degree the squick factor goes through the roof.

Teen Titans, on the other hand, have an age limit.  Unless it's the Teen Titans reunion attended by the non-teen former-titans, any story that pairs Teen Titans in any permutation is going to be about teen romance.  And there's nothing wrong with that, but (a thousand variations on Twilight might not seem to indicate this but) I'm not actually that interested in teen romance.  (Though I do have a backlog in my head from my time as a teenager who came up with ideas for stories without looking too far beyond present circumstance and apocrypha.)

And yet I've gone from no ships I really care about, to one ship that involves a character who is, in all of her canon appearances, a teen, to now two ships in which three out of four characters are teens (Kim, Raven, Starfire.)  I'm not actively looking for new slash ships to sail on, but I wonder if looking at these ships with teens will suddenly having me stumbling into, and being drawn in by, the world of, say, Jubilee/[some other teen] and so forth the way that looking into Kim Possible fanfic led me to Raven/Starfire.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Image matching software (looking for recomendations)

Looking at cartoons, such as Kim Possible, tends to remind me of a project I've had in mind for a while.  Said project would require matching up 2d images.  Cartoons remind me because traditional cartoons are flat.  A pan in real life actually does some complex things because how something is captured by a camera depends on which part of the lens the light is coming through and such.  In a cartoon to pan the picture moves sideways so it's a much simpler process.

Anyway, what I want is software that can go through a lot of images and automatically sort them into categories of ones with overlapping portions.

Weirdly, if I wanted to do this with the much more complex task of photos of three dimensional objects, I'd already know which software to use even though that is much more complex and difficult task.

As an example of what I'm talking about here's how cartoons remind me of this stuff.  All of these are the same picture, they've been cropped, resized, or in one example had an obstruction added, but there's none of the changes that we'd have if they were actual photos of a real life thing:

Scaled down so you can see full original image

Portion at original scale:

Cartoon Pan:

Cartoon Tilt:

Cartoon Pan-Tilt


They all contain the center of the original picture, which means that they all overlap and thus any two of them (without looking at the others) can be appropriately concluded to have originated with the same 2d image.

But, there are various different scales, various different portions of the original, and so forth.  I don't know how to automate determining that they're versions of the same image and that is what I'd like to do.  I'd like something that can look at every image in a given directory and sort them by putting ones that contain versions of the same image together.

Somewhat oddly, as noted above, I know software that could do that, in a roundabout way, if I were doing a more complex version.  For example if that were a real house and and each of the images was a different photo of it.  If I wanted to do that I could not only get  the fact they were of the same object, I could also get a rough idea of the three dimensional shape of the object (based on the differences between the photos.)

What I want is a good deal simpler and, hopefully, faster.

I can see sort of how one would do it for things at the same scale (because you'd end up with the exact same pixels on the overlap, with the only differences being a result of artifacts of the image format) but when it comes to matching across scales I'm at a bit of a loss.

Anyone have any advice?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Picture of a Bee (Image post, obviously)

So, after posting the image for the open thread at Ana's I mentioned that in addition to not wanting to include a potential phobia in the open thread image, the bee was also hard to get a good shot of because it wouldn't stay in one place long enough for me to finagle the camera's auto focus into focusing on the right thing. (It's not exactly a top of the line camera, I don't even think it has a manual focus.  I remember when auto focus cost more and manual focus came standard, how things change.)

Anyway, I looked through the pictures again and I noticed this:

Now that's scaled down a lot because I take huge pictures.  (Why?  Because you can always scale down later but you can't scale up if you took something in crap resolution.)

This still isn't full resolution because I keep things reasonable sized for the blog, but look at the detail on those wings:

So, apparently I did manage to focus on the bee successfully at least once after all.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

How I met Michael Mock (for legal purposes assume this to be fiction)

It came up on facebook.  Addressed to Michael Mock (thus he is the "you"). Reproduced below:

It was just after getting back from stopping the zombie apocalypse of 2052, the temporal distortion had been intense (it created an entirely new timeline, after all) and it made for a somewhat hard landing.

I was disoriented, the driver was trying to fix the rear axle, and I am so, so sorry about what happened to your clothes.

I swear I didn't know that [redacted] stained so much. Anyway, I hope the dry cleaning went well, though it occurs to me that I've never asked, and thanks for not messing up the timeline by telling me we'd already met when we next met.

All things considered, it's kind of surprising we only overshot by that much, it was a 40 year trip crossing timelines midstream, but the important thing is that we met, soon after I was returned to the time whence I had originally come, and the driver made it back to her home time too.

Also, no zombies. Generally a good thing.

(Since we're calling it fiction)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

KP EbE - I'm either humble to the point of lying or out of touch with reality (Theme Song)

(I've decided to call this project "Kim Possible: Episode by Episode", which is the KP EbE in the title.)

The standard format of a Kim Possible episode is 40 to 50 seconds of episode to hook you, a minute of title sequence/opening credits, and then back to the episode.

Since the title sequence is the same for every episode, it seems like it's worth addressing up front and thus getting out the way.

First, the theme song.
I'm your basic, average girl
and I'm here to save the wold
Then you're ... kind of screwed.  There's a reason that when the fate of the world is at stake we turn to ...

Ok, you know, it should be easier to find a teenage female superhero with non-superpowered friends.

If I wanted to talk about Peter Parker's non-superpowered schoolmates that would be easy, but for a female superhero I can't find one in the time I'm willing to devote to such a quick part of what I'm saying.

Normal people are vitally important to the salvation of any given planet, but they generally don't do it on their own.  Moreover, her odds of success aside, Kim is not basic or average.

The eldest child of a brain surgeon (her mother) and a rocket scientist (her father), she is world famous, quite popular, almost universally beloved, the captain of the cheer squad, involved in a stunning array of extra curricular activities, blessed with attractive features, near the top of her class in spite of having almost no time to study, well versed in martial arts to the point of knowing 16 types of Kung Fu alone, capable of athletic feats that other cheerleaders and other globe trotting world savers (both groups having more experience than she does) consider impossible, and so on.

Athletically, even with the cartoon rules of the world in question, the average girl probably couldn't match Kim even if training were all she did.  There's a reason that some fanfic writers posit that Kim does, in fact, have superpowers.  She's got a body Olympians would envy and, while she presumably has to work hard to keep it in that good shape, she cannot possibly be training as much as they do.

With the other things ... your average girl would burn out so very fast if they had to juggle the things Kim chooses to juggle.  Which brings us to another point, a lot of people don't get to choose.

Caveat before I get to that:

High School environments vary wildly.  If you don't believe me, look at any discussion of a fictional depiction of a high school social structure.  Some people will be convinced that a high school like that doesn't exist, didn't exist, and will never exist.  They'll assure you that it's a weird fictional convention with no basis in reality whatsoever.  Other people lived it.  That thing that was so far from group one's experience that group one thinks its impossible for it to exist in reality?  That was group two's experience.

Ok, so, anything detailed I say about high school cannot be taken as universal because nothing is BUT it is generally the case that people cannot live a life strictly of their own choosing.  After all, for you to be accepted in a group you don't just have to decide that you want to be in it, they have to welcome you.

Apart from not being able to sit at the senior table before she's a senior, there's basically no group Kim won't be accepted by.  All that she needs is to want it.

Kim can fit in with basically anyone anywhere.  That's not average.  Kim's school does have a "Food Chain" and Kim is way up at the top, but she's so far up at the top that she can have her best friend be the pond scum at the bottom without it harming her standing.  She's transcended the petty social structure.

Or, for the short version of almost everything since the quote of the first two lines of the theme song:

Kim isn't an average every-girl, she's a power fantasy.  She does what she wants, with who she wants, and the world will bend to her whims.

Sometimes she does get brought back down to earth.  The very first episode has her being reminded that despite her illusions to the contrary, she is not above getting thrown in detention for being repeatedly tardy.

Occasionally she will have it impressed on her that someone else is better at her than something or that her way is not, in fact, the best way.

But, overall, the fact that she literally lives up to the family motto ("Anything's possible for a Possible,") means that she's not basic or average.

The song has this contradiction in it, of course.  The song is about the show, so it can't all be, "I'm totally average," because she's not.

So, with the problem of the opening lines dwelled on way too much, let's do the whole song, starting from the top:
I'm your basic average girl,
and I'm here to save the wold.
You can't stop me cause I'm
Kim Poss-i-bile.
There is nothing I can't do,
and when danger calls just
know that I am on my way.
(Know that I am on my way.)
It doesn't matter where or
when there's trouble,
if you just call my name
Kim Possible.
Call me, beep me
if you wanna reach me
When you wanna page me it's okay
Whenever you need me baby
Call me, beep me
if you wanna reach me
(Call me, beep me)
(if you wanna reach me)
Doesn't matter where,
doesn't matter when:
I will be there for you
till the very end.
In danger or trouble
I'm there on the double.
You that you always can call
Kim Possible.
Call me, beep me
if you wanna reach me
So we get a quick rundown of things:
--She saves the world
--She's unstoppable for the simple fact that she's herself
--She can do anything
--She runs toward danger
--It's none the less important to call her
--She's there to end.  (Verily.)
--She's always on call.

It's a pretty good summing up of her character, especially as seen through her own eyes.  She isn't quite as good as she thinks.  Ron, her best friend and sidekick, helps but Rufus (Ron's pet naked mole rat) is the one who ends up saving her when she gets in over her head more often than not.  (Because if it's over her head it's definitely over Ron's head.)

She's not quite unstoppable and while it does seem that she can do anything (given time and motivation) she can't always do it as quickly as she assumes she can.

Moving on, usually she's called in for help but sometimes she does simply see something bad happening and jump in to help on her own initiative.

Off the top of my head I can think of a grand total of one time she gave up, and that was because she thought it was the very end.

With one notable (and unintentionally cruel) exception, we never see her turning down a call.

Over all pretty good for an opening; apart from "I'm your basic average girl" there's nothing that stands out as "... and they have a plan" false advertising.  Though I do note that "beep me" makes "page me" redundant as a beeper is just a beeping pager, and also that she is hardly ever called or beeped onto a mission.  A request for help is put in at her website, her friend Wade contacts her via computer or a secure multipurpose (including video conferencing in this case) device known as a "Kimmunicator".


I've recently come into contact, via Ana Mardoll, with the song The Princess Who Saved herself:

(you don't need to watch or listen if you don't want to)
(I'll say everything that's important to my point in text)

The song, and a comment by one of the people involved in adapting it into a children's book, has me looking at Kim Possible in a different light.  The Kim Possible theme is a minute long, so it can't go into the kind of the detail that The Princess Who Saved Herself does, and it goes before every episode so it has to be pretty generic, but there are important differences beyond that.

The princess never meets a challenge she can't beat, but when faced with a dragon trying to burn her castle down she's appropriately scared.  She doesn't assume her victory is a forgone conclusion the way "you can't stop me" and "there is nothing I can't do" implies for Kim.

That's not just bluster in the theme song either, Kim really does have nigh unsinkable self confidence and a general lack of fear.

That's not the thing that made me bring up The Princess Who Saved Herself.

This is:
What I love about our heroine is that she fearlessly takes on every challenge and will kick a dragon’s butt if necessary, but in the end, she’ll always handle the problem by reaching out with compassion.
That's from Greg Pak, the one who headed up adapting the song into a book, in an interview with Black Girl Nerds.

She ties the dragon to the tree (by his tail) because he trying to burn the castle down but then she talks to him and, afterward, offers him tea and becomes friends with him.  Tying him to the tree was a short term solution, like Kim winning a fight, compassion was her long term solution, like Kim sending someone to jail.

Don't get me wrong, the bad guys in Kim Possible ought to go to jail.  They're usually thieves, often would-be world conquerors, and they have a habit of doing things that are incredibly unethical.

But when I have Kim Possible on one side and the princess on the other, it makes me wonder about a lack of solving problems by means that don't include blowing things up and throwing people in jail.

The princess "defeated" the witch by being willing to talk to someone who was different (wrinkled old and green) about what that person wanted out of fashion.  Kim can't even accept her best friend's preferred haircut without first seeing her attempt to change it explode with such force that Europe's power grid is taken out by the shrapnel.  (Ok, not quite how it happened, but we'll cover it in detail when we hit episode 5.)

I could very well be forgetting something, four seasons of stuff is a lot to try to keep in one's head, but I can think of only one example where the follow up to stopping the evil plot involved the kind of compassionate welcoming approach of the princess.  Kim didn't do it.  Ron did.  (That's episode 25, who knows if we'll ever get there.)

It's not like there isn't opportunity to try reaching out.  Half the time Drakken isn't trying to take over the world, he's craving validation or trying to prove himself to people who laughed at him.  A nice talk about how they can't give you a Nobel Prize if you never publish your research or how cool everyone would think he were if he adapted his hover-pod technology into flying cars for all and it's entirely possible that one super-villain could be eliminated entirely, in the best way possible.

Not everyone is potentially receptive to that kind of thing.  Shego, Drakken's second, is in the evil business for the evilz.  Mind you for her that seems to mean getting paid to steal things and fight.

The point isn't that Kim should respond to every problem with the compassion of an absurdly welcoming heart.  My point is that being faced with someone who saved her kingdom by being nice to people (even though she could kick ass and take names if she wanted to) while I was getting ready to write this post really made me start to question whether Kim's standard response (retrieve what was stolen, blow everything up, get bad guys arrested) is really the best one available.


I was going to talk about the title sequence over which the theme song plays, but I've kind of run out of time.  Maybe tomorrow.


Friday, May 8, 2015

HHII: Graduation 1.5 - Larry makes contact

[Graduation 1.5 here.]
[So, I realized that I forgot to have a follow up on Larry's mission in Graduation 1.5, thus: a follow up on Larry's mission.  Vivian, Oliver, and Larry are the only characters from the show here, everyone else was hastily made up on the spot because the background characters at the robot rumble never really got names or characterization.]

“How many geniuses does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” someone asked.

Someone else, clearly in no mood for jokes, said, “Not screw in, build. Build a light source in total darkness.”

“No need to get snappy, Mary,” the first voice said.

“Shut up, Peter.” Mary almost shouted.

“Could both of you be quiet, some of us are trying to work here,” a new voice said.

For about twenty eight seconds there was silence and then the same voice said, “Almost … there.”

About a dozen people in the underground chamber blinked as their eyes adjusted to the light.

Vivian, the owner of the third voice, said, “Now we need to find out how bad things are.” Then she noticed a body on the floor, “Oh, god! Oliver.”

Mary and Rob joined her in checking on Oliver, the others started to do diagnostics.

“What's wrong with him?” Mary asked.

“He's lost power,” Vivian said while pulling back fake skin to get at the machinery beneath.

“Oliver's an android?” Rob asked, though it was more an expression of shock than a question.

“Who built him?” Mary asked.

“I did,” Vivian said without looking up from what she was doing.

* * *

The night's events hadn't started yet when the power had been lost, there were only a dozen members present and they'd all been in the antechamber at the time.

Vivian continued to work on Oliver as Rob and Mary watched.

Peter and Alicia had gone off to set up a generator that they had never used. It was intended to power a line to the outside world in the case of an eventuality such as this. The set up was designed so that the generator would power a small computer terminal, a vertical conduit, and various equipment for sending and receiving data at a small, disguised, surface station.

The system was wonderful, of course. It was designed by geniuses. The gas generator that was supposed to power it had been bought at a Smarty Mart, hauled in, and largely ignored (because it had never been needed.) It was proving very difficult for the geniuses to get working.

The six other memebers took it upon themselves to find out what was working and what wasn't in the other rooms they could access, and, of course, see which other rooms they could access.

* * *

“What's going on?” Oliver asked. “How did I get here?”

“You lost power,” Vivian told him while putting his cosmetic pieces back in place so that he again resembled a human being.

At the same time Peter and Alicia finally got the emergency line to the outside up and running. When the data came in Alicia said, “This is impossible.”

“I don't see anything,” Peter said.

“Exactly. All systems are operational,” Alica pointed to some readouts, “but we're not receiving anything. No internet access on the wi-fi or the hard-line, no phone line, cell phone towers aren't responding, no AM or FM broadcasts. No television. No shortwave.”

“Satellites?” Peter asked.

“Nothing yet, I'm still looking.” She closed her eyes, composed herself, then delivered her conclusion: “It's like the outside world stopped existing.

Oliver had finished describing his memory of events to Vivian, Mary, and Rob. Mary explained, “It's called blacking out. It happens to human beings sometimes when they drink too much or hit their head. Things that are in short term memory don't get transferred to long term for whatever reason, so it gets lost.”

“You can't have lost too much,” Vivian said. “You update your permanent memory a minimum of once every two hours.”

Vivian noticed that Mary was looking away. “What is it?” she asked.

“Did you hear--” Marry stopped. Then walked to the door. She put her ear on it. “Someone's out there.”

“If they were allowed in they'd be in by now,” Rob said. Then his face met his palm with a loud smack. “Except that without power the security system is down so no one can get in or out.”

Mary knocked on the door. A knock returned from the outside.

“We need to let them in,” Vivian said.

“We don't even know who it is,” Peter said with suspicion.

An underground robot fight club wasn't technically illegal. It wasn't technically legal, either. It was in a technical gray area that involved subterranean rights disputes, definitions of pets, anti-dog-fighting laws, the push and pull between the desire to stimulate innovation and the desire to clamp down on sensitive technology, baroque restrictions on AI, strange interpretations of what it meant to corrupt minors, the '93 Tri-City Skate Park Accords, SV-288, the UN Accord on Non-Human Workers' Rights, the precise definition of “person” at any given moment, a semi-secret agreement between NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries following the industrial mishap of '82, whether or not certain people were within 500 meters as the crow flies, what “as the crow flies” means when discussing underground tunnels, which judge was hearing the case, who had been bribed by whom, and the brand of root beer the eventual jury was given access to.

There was a reason attendance was by invitation only.

“Whoever it is might know what's going on outside,” Alicia said mainly to Peter.

Kit Bash, a recent addition to the rumble, had been drawn by the discussion and asked, “What's going on?”

“Do we have access to the tool room?” Vivian asked Kit.

“Yeah,” Kit said, “but it's about all we have access to. The others are still looking into things, but most of the doors are too heavy to move without power.”

“Get the others, get some tools, and cut open that door,” Vivian pointed to door the knocking had come from. It was a standard sized door, made of metal, and it served as the main entrance and egress to the robot rumble.

* * *

“The ventilation system is down; there are only so many rooms the air can circulate in; keeping the generator running is a danger to us all,” Peter said.

“There has got to be something out there still operational. Just give me a few more minutes,” Alicia said without looking away from the screen.

“You said that a few minutes ago.”

Alicia typed in a new set of commands and waited for a new batch of data.

* * *

Kit was kicking the door while Mary and Rob cut it. Vivian and Oliver were overseeing everything and everyone. Unfortunately, at this point there wasn't a lot of hope left, and there weren't many things to do to pass the time. Everything had been checked and double checked. Cutting through the door and looking over the results from the outside line were the only things left to do.

Mary Rob and Kit worked on the first, Alicia and Peter had the second taken care of, Vivian and Oliver supervised, and the five other people just sat, stood, and walked in circles doing nothing.

Finally the door gave.

So much attention was paid to that event that no one save Peter noticed Alicia say, “Oh my God!” a heartbeat later.

In a moment everyone recognized the person on the other side.

Vivian said, “Hey, Larry!” as Oliver said, “Greetings, Imperial Senator Bernilus.”

“Do you know what's going on?” Mary asked him.

“We've been cut off since we lost power,” Vivian explained.

“Alien invasion,” Larry said.

For a moment there was silence, then cacophony. Rob's “Your kidding,” was the only statement it was possible to make out.

“He's not,” Alicia shouted. “You all better take a look at this.”

Soon everyone was crowded around her at the computer terminal. “It took forever to find a satellite that was still online, but once I did I found videos from all over the world.” She punched a few keys and brought up video of the alien war machines defeating a battalion of tanks with ease. “People are reconstructing a global communications network using the handful of satellites and ground stations that are still active, but so far the only messages seem to be people comparing notes on how the alien machines are unbeatable.”

“My cousin Kim was abducted from her graduation just before the invasion started,” Larry said.

“That's right,” Vivian said as a memory came to mind. “Middleton High School Graduation tonight, it's why Justine was a no-show.”

“Justine and some others are trying to make defenses for the people who took shelter in the high school,” Larry said, “I was sent here to see if we could make some robots of our own to fight those things.”

“Those things?” Mary's voice was an ode to incredulity.

“I've always wanted to work with bigger things,” Rob said.

“I know where a construction company stores their equipment,” Kit said.

“Hydraulics are fun,” Mary conceded.

“The space center is set up for large scale construction,” Vivian told everyone. “If you can get it there, we can assemble whatever you find however you want it.”

“The power would be down at the Space Center too,” Alicia said. “The blackout is global. The attack took out everything that was generating power along with most active transmission lines.”

Vivian smiled, “The Space Center can make it's own power, and the system would have been safely shut down when the attack started.”

Alicia shrugged. “So, away we go to build giant robots?”

“Not you,” Vivian said.


“You know the tunnels better than anyone. I want you to get as many people underground as possible,” Vivian said. “It's not safe up there.”

“Nice plan,” Alicia said, “but there's only one of me. How am I supposed to reach more than a handful of people?”

“The robots from the rumble might be too small to fight the things out there,” Vivian said, “but they're far from useless.” Addressing the whole group she said, “Everyone give your command codes to Alicia,” then addressing only Alicia she said, “They'll be your messengers, just get the message out that it's safe here, and let people know how to get into the tunnels and caverns.”

“That's a nice plan,” Peter said, “but we can't get to the robots.”

“I can,” Alicia said. “There's a back way into the storage room from a spur path half a mile down that tunnel,” she said pointing through the door they'd cut open.

Vivian smiled. “I said no one knew the tunnels like her.”

“Ok, good,” Peter said. “Can we turn off the generator before the carbon monoxide kills us all?”

“Yes,” Alicia sighed, “we can turn off the generator.”

They split into four groups. Alicia went on her own to where they stored the robots so she could start her “Search and Tell to Hide” operation. Vivian and Oliver went to the space center to get the fabrication equipment ready. Kit led Rob and Mary to construction equipment they hoped to use in building their own giant robots. Peter led the rest in a mission that was one part reconnaissance to see if the alien robots had any exploitable weaknesses, one part scavenging anything that seemed like it might be useful in fighting them, and three parts keeping heads down and hoping to live through the night.