“We wrote her that way”: Entrapta and autistic representation in She-Ra

Entrapta forgives Catra for exiling her to Beast Island at the end of Season 3, and being a jerk to her in the past, in the episode, “Taking Control”

In November of last year, I wrote about Entrapta, one of my favorite characters in the animated series, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, because she is morally gray character, a hacker, and a “smart and quirky chaotic neutral icon.” In that post, I examined her character in the first four seasons of the show, noting that she is an autistic character who makes her own decisions, acting as “a princess with prehensile hair who is [also] a scientist and inventor always trying to tinker with ancient technology. ” I also criticized some who claimed she is a “hurtful” representation of autistic people, noting that she is sweet and underappreciated, pointing out that Bow is the only one who sees her sympathetically, and that she stays in the Fright Zone by choice. I further noted that she is dedicated to science and research, sticks up for Catra when Hordak wants to send her to Beast Island, and stated that when she is rescued from Beast Island in Season 4 she “goes with them back to Bright Moon because of data and scientific discovery, not because of friendship or anything else.” I additionally made a comparison between her and  Peridot in Steven Universe, with storyboarder Maya Peterson (the same one who said Peri is asexual and aromatic, said she doesn’t interpret Peridot as autistic. I intend this post will be an update from my previous post, talking about her in the show’s final (and fifth) season, which started streaming on May 15th.  If you haven’t see the new season, please do so because this post is filled with spoilers! It is important to write about this because series creator Noelle Stevenson confirmed that Entrapta was autistic, basing her on an autistic person on the SPOP crew, a full-time storyboard artist named Sam Szymanski. [1]

Most of the commentary about the new season has focused on the mutual confession of romantic feelings by Catra and Adora, shipped as Catradora, who kiss in the show’s final episode, with their love literally saving the world (and universe) from destruction. This is the right focus, while some have noted the other LGBTQ characters confirmed like Seahawk (whose ex is named Falcon), Kyle and Rogelio, the relationship between Perfuma and Scorpia, or the romance between Bow and Glimmer, among many other topics. [2] After all, as Lindsey Mantoan, wrote in a CNN opinion, She-Ra is the “best queer representation on television.” In the process, however, little has been said about Entrapta. In fact, of many reviews I looked at, only a few even mentioned her in their analyses, despite her pivotal role in at least part of the season. [3] While one reviewer for A.V. Club (Shannon Miller) claimed that the show trades an in-depth look at Entrapta’s treatment for “heroics,” and saying there could have been “more reflection from those who have outwardly had more difficulty understanding Entrapta’s mindset, ” another, for Forbes, Linda Maleh, says the opposite. Maleh argues that Entrapta gets a lot “a lot of screen time as she learns to balance her love of machines with her desire to connect with people,” calling her entirely “adorkable,” and that her character gives viewers some of the most touching and funny moments of the show. I tend to agree with Maleh more than Miller. Similarly, I think that Heather Hogan of Autostraddle makes a valid point in saying that Wrong Hordak brought out the charming parts of Entrapta, stating that it was nice to see her understanding how to work alongside friends, express herself better, and her feelings, while the princesses “start to understand her for who she really is.” Although it is positive these reviewers noted her role in the season, there is clearly a lot more going on about Entrapta than what Miller, Maleh, or Hogan talk about.

Entrapta, who is between the ages 28 and 30, appears in every single episode of the fifth season, apart from episode 10, can be said to be the “smartest” character in the series. In the previous season,  she was rescued from Beast Island by Bow, Adora, and Swift Wind, reminded about her true friends while ancient technology continued to pull her in. In contrast, in this season, she struggles to find a place among the other princesses, as highlighted in the episode “Launch.” Since Entrapta has been a morally grey character in the past, it makes sense that the princesses are a bit distrustful. Even Emily, with her name as an obscure reference to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, turns away from Enttapta when it appears that she cares more about tech “than saving their friend.” After that episode, the princesses begin to understand her better. She later helps out Adora and Bow save Glimmer from Horde Prime’s flagship. Glimmer is transported through space by Catra, in her first likely selfless act. She then helps Adora, Bow, and Glimmer successfully rescue Catra from Prime’s flagship, called the Velvet Glove. She even does surgery on Catra, removing the chip in her neck. She, additionally, forgives Catra after she apologizes for treating her terribly. As a reminder, at the end of Season 3, Catra panicked when Entrapta tried to warn Hordak to not start the portal. She then orders her to be sent to Beast Island. She is shocked with what she is done (as is Scorpia by this cruel act against her), beginning her descent down a “dark, dangerous path.” Basically, Catra blamed Entrapta for her own mistakes.

In the rest of the season, Entrapta continues to help the princesses and tries to disable all the chips before being transported to Prime’s flagship. She apologizes to everyone when captured by Prime, literally the head of a cult of mindless drone soldiers. Whether Entrapta has platonic or romantic feelings for Hordak, the latter shipped as Entrapdak by one of of the show’s story editors (and some other fans), it is up the viewer. [4] As some fans noted back in March, a few months before the recent season premiered, it is clear that there is “some chemistry between her and Hordak” and some even call their relationship “sweet,” although I’m not sure I would go that far. In any case, it does mean that Hordak is more than a one-dimensional villain like in the original She-Ra: Princess of Power series in the 1980s which was used to sell action figures for Mattel. Through some searching, I did find an interview with Stevenson (complete with unfortunate spelling errors by the person who wrote the transcript of her interview responses) where she specifically talks about how Entrapta grows in this season:

I think with a character like Entrapata [sic], we sort of live in a little bit of her own version of the world that the other characters don’t always understand…It’s not only Entrapta learning how to empathize and connect with others, but also for others to learn how to empathize and connect with her. And so I think with both sides of that, we see [Entrapta] growing this season. What I think has always been [Entrapta’s] strength is that, even if she might struggle with communicating her feelings or understanding other characters when they’re communicating their feelings to her, I think her strength as a character — kind of her superpower — is that she sees humanity in everything. Not just in humanoid or organic creatures, but she sees humanity in robots. She sees humanity in the AI that drives ships. She sees humanity in one clone in a million identical clones and knows their personality and knows who they are and knows how to connect with them… I think we see her make a lot of progress on that front, but then we also see her. I think she does more than almost any other character in humanizing characters who have never been humanized before by anyone….It’s so much of what is the heart of this show. It seems like that’s what makes Etherea [sic] special in general is that everyone who comes to Etherea [sic] isn’t getting broken by it a little bit. They end up making connections and falling in love in ways they never thought were possible. And I think Entrapta really embodies that.”

Furthermore, as a morally grey character, who played a “big hand in some of the Horde-led destruction on Etheria,” she still cares about her friends. While some may question her renewal of the individuality or “humanity” of Hordak, becoming his first genuine friend, later leading him to turn against Horde Prime, she clearly had a “unique perspective on the world that not everyone understands.” Earlier in the season, when she encounters Hordak before he is freed from Prime’s control, in an attempt to access the computer control center of Horde Prime so she can disable the mind-control chips, helped by Swift Wind, she tells Hordak “remember, your imperfections are beautiful!” When the essence of Prime is destroyed by She-Ra, he is freed, and is soon reunited with Entrapta, who says that she is “so glad” to see him back.

By this point, it is clear that Entrapta is not the “worst kind of villain” as some described her and is more than a person who “only cares about the pursuit of knowledge,” no matter the consequences, as Brett Elderkin described her, also calling her a “mad scientist,” but rather just a morally grey character, or perhaps “chaotic neutral” to use a Dungeons and Dragons term. That brings me to a recent article by Megan Crouse in Den of Geek appropriately titled “She-Ra: In Defense of Entrapta.” She states that while Entrapta occasionally embraces the trope of not caring about “people who might be hurt when dangerous experiments go wrong,” she is much more than that, and dramatically changes in Season 5. Crouse added that Entrapta in Season 4 was not truly happy as a hermit on Beast Island, although she maintained her fascination with science, missing people, and afraid that “her friends will inevitably abandon her.” She then talks about the episode “Launch” where Entrapta’s conflict with the fellow princesses reaches a boiling point, putting others in danger, with her actions “extremely, comically risk,” wanting to win at no matter the cost. After Mermista accuses Entrapta of not caring about any of them, and not being trustworthy as a result, she responds by saying she didn’t realize they were angry at her. She then retreats to apologizing, one of her many defensive mechanisms, stating

I’m not good at people, but I am good at tech. I thought maybe if I could use tech to help you, you’d like me. But I messed that up, too.

As she barrels ahead, Mermista pulls her back by her hair (just as Horde Prime does later), and is finally convinced of her good nature when Entrapta declares “Glimmer needs us!,” indicating she is willing to put herself in harms away as much as anyone else. As Crouse further outlines, while Entrapta’s action is similar to what she has done in the past, as she begins to explain how and why she acts and feels the way she does, gaining more friends along the way. Even so, she still clearly has trouble reading people, which is not “magically cured throughout this season.” While Crouse says that it would “have been nice to see Entrapta really feel the consequences of her dangerous actions,” I would counter and say she did grow a lot in this season. On the other hand, I agree with Crouse that it is “sweeter to see her pursue science and friendship” than just tinkering with technology on Beast Island. While I can see why she argues that Entrapta is annoying, she makes a good point that Entrapta is not letting her “loner tendencies turn into complete isolation, but nor does she have to completely change who she is.” As a side note, Entrapta cuts her own bangs, as Stevenson said once, although this is terrifying considering her power tools! Yikes!

Now, lets get to the elephant in the room: Entrapta flirting with technology. The first time this happens is in the episode “Launch,” declaring flirtatiously: “Hello. You are very technologically advanced” before almost being blown to smithereens by the Horde robot. Then, in the episode “Stranded” she says: “Darla and I are going to spend some quality time together,” again in a flirtatious manner, leading to confused looks from Adora, Bow, and Glimmer. Now, robosexuality, a term seemingly coined and/or popularized by Futurama, means the “love and/or sexuality between a humanoid and a robot.” From these two interactions you could say that she is robosexual. Let us consider what Stevenson said about Entrapta: that she is learning to connect and empathize with others, and sees humanity in everything, knowing their personality and how to connect with them. One fan put Entrapta very well, remarking that she is a functional adult who can make full decisions, arguing that she is “chaotic good with a bad moral compass who likes to fuck space nazis,” saying she makes bad decisions. I can agree with that to an extent, except to say that it makes sense why she ended up working for the Horde, since the princesses had not really liked/understood her before that point. Another fan noted, correctly, that Entrapta (and Scorpia) but had to earn the trust of the princesses in their own ways.

That’s all! Comments are welcome.


Notes

[1] In her first tweet, she responded to a fan who asked if entrapta is autistic, saying that “many of us relate to her and love her so much and it would mean a lot if we could get confirmation of her being autistic.” She responded by saying: “yes, we wrote her that way. One of our crewmembers was on the spectrum and related to her specifically, and had a huge part in shaping her story and character!” She further explained that “the crew member was board artist @Sizzlemanski. His first episode was Entrapta’s introductory episode in season 1 [System Failure] and he had a HUGE hand not only in defining her physical acting, but also pitched me several ideas for her arc early on! He basically became our go-to for Entrapta.”

[2] As Stevenson stated on Twitter, she hopes that in the future we stop thinking about LGBT representation as a “race or a contest” and as more of a “community effort to uplift voices that have not yet had their stories told,” with each individual piece of media as a “broadening of horizons.”

[3] When Noelle Stevenson was interviewed by comicbook.com, Nerdist, Gizmodo, A.V. Club, L.A. Times, Polygon, Digital Spy, GLAAD, EW, and CBR, the interviewers understandably focused on the Catra/Adora slow-burn relationship, but never asked a question about Entrapta. One interviewer for Collider asked “…So we’ve got Bow and Glimmer, we’ve got Sea Hawk and Mermista, we’ve even got kind of an interesting relationship with Entrapta and Hordak, and then obviously CatrAdora. But did you know from the beginning how everybody was going to pair off or is that something that kind of developed over time?” but she never specifically replied about the “relationship with Entrapta and Hordak.” Reviews of the show in The Mary Sue, PinkNews, LA Times, tor.com, and ScreenRant do not even mention Entrapta at all!

[4] On Instagram, Noelle Stevenson said that Entrapta would follow Hordak to Beast Island as his community services for his crimes and as a result, the “two would develop a romantic relationship and reunite with the bot she left behind in Season 4, keeping her promise to return,” so it sounds like it is leaning toward romance, as noted in a summary on her fandom page. Also see Emily Hu who noted they did board a scene with Entrapta and Hordak but it never ended up being included. There is clearly a connection between Entrapta and Hordak, but I’m still not sure if it is romantic or friendly. It could really go either way.

A curmudgeon librarian and superheroes in the library

Building on my article from last week, I’d like to highlight an episode of DC Super Hero Girls, the 2019 reboot of a series in the earlier 2010s, titled “#SoulSisters Part 2″ (s1ep25), that extensively focuses on libraries, a great addition to my continuing “libraries in popular culture” series. This goes far beyond the scene I noted in last week’s post, although it is clearly a different library (this one is the city library, the other one was the high school library). [1] We begin by seeing the grand library, almost looking like a temple, looming over the landscape, possibly modeled after the main branch of the New York Public Library in New York City.

Below is what that main branch at New York City’s fifth avenue, the Schwartzmann Building, looks like, with some similarities. This building, has a remarkable facade which has also been mimicked in Futurama with the New New York Public Library shown in a few episodes (especially in the episode “The Day the Earth Stood Stupid“) some of which have been This is not to be confused with the hilariously named “pubic library.” Of course, there are many differences here, but part of it, like the lions, may have been modeled on the NYPL branch.

This picture is from the NYPL website back in August 2015.

Anyway, on with the episode. We first see the wide expanse of the library.

Then, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) looks for a book on spells…

As the fandom page on Katana notes, Diana reads this book, finding out information about the Soul Taker, a sword “forged in the 14th century by “the legendary swordsman Urasawa Sengo” and “rumored to steal the souls of its enemies,” those which can “only be freed if the wielder says a certain Japanese incantation.” That becomes key later in the episode. Anyway, there is a hilarious scene where Diana’s phone rings and she can’t turn it off, annoying everyone. I actually had a similar experience once, when I didn’t know how cell phones work, so I can completely sympathize.

She finds Katana is sitting near by, but…

It attracts the attention of the librarian, an older White lady who fits all the stereotypes, which are commonly associated with them. These stereotypes are not unique to this show, as librarians portrayed in Steven Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, and Futurama are shown similarly: as people with glasses and occasionally old (as is the case in She-Ra: Princess of Power). Even the character in Gargantia, one of the more positive portrayals of libraries, has the appearance of an elderly White man, while the two gay male librarians, George and Lance, in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, are the only non-white (and Black) librarians in animation I can think of off hand, although there may be others.

Moving back to the episode, we then get the strict rule on the wall, declaring “no cell phones!” which seems a bit absurd, as it is vague on what it means.

Katana jokes with Diana, until she figures out that she is the villain who stole the souls of her friends, leading to a fight in the library itself.

Again, the librarian is annoyed, but for a different reason this time. Some librarians have taken this attitude and embraced it, with an ongoing blog called “The Curmudgeonly Librarian” published by a librarian in their late 60s or a “Library Curmudgeon” written by a Canadian librarian. Others have said that library pioneers like Frederick Beecher Perkins, member of a prominent religious family in the U.S. in the 19th century, was a curmudgeon. Some joked that their work in a library had turned them into a curmudgeon. While librarians are often shown as unpleasant and bespectacled in popular culture, interrupting protagonists and shushing them, as Kevin McElvaney points out, being a “librarian is no career for the lazy curmudgeon” because it takes years of “advanced study even to be considered for a position.”

Its because they are breaking a rule hilariously called “no loud fighting.”

When Diana asks about this, the librarian has her only substantive line in the episode: “Its Metropolis, its the best we can hope for.” Diana and Katana apologize for their behavior, but their fighting doesn’t stop. Diana even catches Katana’s hand in a book, and they continue girly fighting. Of course, this sound catches the attention of the librarian, again. As the audience, we see the expanse of the library as a whole…

Until their fighting causes the stacks of the library to collapse, falling like dominoes, with expressions of shock on their faces afterwards. The librarian, cast as a curmudgeon, kicks out Diana and Katana for property destruction, a  reason more justified than Turtle Princess asking asking Finn and Jake to leave the library in one of the Adventure Time episodes. The librarian might be portrayed badly in this episode, almost equivalent to “the original librarian stereotype…of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon” except its a White woman, [2] but what she does is completely justified!

The fact that Katana and Diana apologize for their action afterward doesn’t make up what they did. It’s good they have to deal with the consequences of their actions and being banned from the library, presumably. Their fight then continues outside the library and onto the streets of the city.

Toward the end of the episode, we see the librarian, at night, pushing a cart of books. It makes me think of books being moved around on hover carts in Cleopatra of Space, although there are probably other examples.

While this episode doesn’t counter stereotypes of librarians, [3] it is fun since many other episodes do not focus that much on libraries. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode.

That’s all for this week! Until next week!


Notes

[1] It also goes far beyond “Frenemies” where Batgirl/Barbara Gordan says, as an excuse, “O have a library book I… need to write for the library. So people can read it.Because you gotta have books for the library. Otherwise, it’s just a big empty building, I guess,” which is a bit funny but not true! Other episodes feature a library card, while, the short Taco Tuesdayfeatures the library, where Karen is asked by the librarian to keep quiet when her stomach is growling” while in another short, Kara spends detention “reshelving books in the library while trying to finish in time to get to a concert” while the library is also mentioned in another episode.

[2] The same article talks about librarian stereotypes more, saying, “there are numerous librarian stereotypes, with the most recognizable being the middle-aged, bun-wearing, comfortably shod, shushing librarian. Others include the sexy librarian, the superhero librarian, and the hipster or tattooed librarian. These stereotypes are all characterized predominantly as feminine, white women. Newer librarian stereotypes, particularly those proffered by librarians themselves, tend to be depicted as younger white women. The original librarian stereotype, which was superseded by the introduction of his prudish sister, was that of the fussy (white) male curmudgeon.”

[3] As one example, most of the librarians listed on Early Bird Books either are wearing glasses and are curmudgeons (Evelyn O’Connell in The Mummy, Margaret Gesner in Monsters University, Barbara Gordon in Batman), are snotty elitists (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), seeming cops (The Library Cop in Seinfeld), drinkers (Tammy 2 in Parks and Rec), are ghosts (Ghost Librarian in Ghostbusters), or buff (Conan the Librarian in UHF) apart from Taystee in Orange is the New Black. Parks and Rec features one character, Marlene Knope (played by Pamela Reed) who hates libraries because of interpersonal issues, declaring “the library is the worst group of people ever assembled in history. They’re mean, conniving, rude, and extremely well-read, which makes them dangerous.”

Magical libraries and the absence of librarians (again)

I thought I’d write a follow-up piece to my previous post which focused on librarian-less libraries. I’d like to focus on a few animated series: Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, a new version which premiered this year (the original version aired in two seasons from 1998 to 2000), Bravest Warriors, and DC Super Hero Girls (an ongoing series). Once again, there are is a lack of librarians within these libraries, which seems to be a pattern!

Starting with Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, in the show’s ninth episode (“Ghost from the Past”) there are again a librarian-less library, although this one is clearly well-used. First we see the wide expanse of this beautiful library:

Then, there is a conversation between two characters, Leticia “Tish” MacCredy and Forte, in the library. He confesses his feelings toward her, which makes her very uncomfortable, understandably!

She again rebuffs him, annoyed he still has interest in her. Like any woman, she has every right to reject his advances. In any case, I liked how this scene is laid out, with the books in the background. It is done well, artistically:

Later, we see Tish and Orphen. Interesting that Tish has a huge library in her room, or office of some type. I thought that was the best part of the episode

Moving on, no…learning is not for just for women, Plum, sorta ‘bravest warrior’! She says this, jokingly, in the episode, Merewif Tag, transformed into Chris in this episode of another one of my favorite series, Bravest Warriors:

Other than that, we don’t see anything more of the library, although this place is pretty cool, as you can have food and rink in there, and the design is awesome.

In another series, which I’m in the process of watching, DC Super Hero Girls, the version which began in 2019 and is still airing on Cartoon Network, there is an episode, “#MeetTheCheetah,” with a scene in a library. So, this group of teenage girls have got superheroes, and one of them, Jessica Cruz, also known as Green Lantern, chases the villain, who has transformed into a cheetah, through spooky library. The first image you see of the library looks like any space, generally, with a “shh!” and “quiet” signs, exhibiting another stereotype:

The next time we see the library, Green Lantern is about to enter:

She makes a candle with her powers to see through the dimly-lit library, walking down the stacks, scared the cheetah will attack her:

She even illuminates one of the stacks but sees nothing, turning her candle into a flashlight, walking down the stacks, still afraid.

I love how scenes like this one are framed. Its done very well:

Don’t forget the importance of learning…

or reading…Green Lantern!

Of course, right after this, she is attacked by the cheetah, ending the scene in the library, not even a minute long, but not before we see a bit more of the library.

There is a library shown in the episode titled “#CrushingIt” but the scene is literally only 5 or 10 seconds long, so I’m not even going to include the picture here. That’s all for this week. Until next week!

Animating genealogy: from family trees to dungeons

Hello everyone! In my quest to watch more and more animations, I stumbled upon two shows which focus on genealogy. In the past, I’ve written about non-traditional family trees in Futurama, and Carmen’s journey for family self-discovery in the Netflix show Carmen Sandiego. Two of my new favorite shows both have episodes which focus on genealogy and I’d like to talk about them, giving my thoughts on these shows!

Let’s start with Amphibia. In the episode “Family Shrub,” Sprig and Polly think their family history is boring. However, their minds are changed when they “uncover family secrets buried deep under their very own home.” Oh my! At the beginning of the episode, when Sprig is gluing on new pictures onto the tree, Anne says: “back home, we’d call this a family tree.” Hop Pop laughs, saying that is “why everyone in your world is crazy.” Anyway, he is reading from a book of family history at the beginning of the episode, which has tabs in it.

I love that Hop Pop gets excited from reading the family history (which he probably put together) while the other characters are bored by it. I love the parts where he says that one of the ancestors was a “king” with everyone excited, then adding “king of single-tiered irrigation systems.” One of the most hilarious parts of this whole episode, seriously.

After this, Polly declares that “our ancestors were boring” and Sprig declares, in an annoyed tone, “were they all just farm frogs?” This is equivalent to my statement where I said that my ancestors were “dang farmers” from Massachusetts. Sprig wants to know about the artists, the poets, and the dreamers. Honestly, I think this episode is making fun of people who boast about their family histories. I mean, it definitely could be. Hop Pop makes a good point that could apply to anyone who grumbles about their ancestors:

“Just farm frogs? Kids, the point of the shrub is to give you an appreciation for your past. The Plantar family has layers. You just have to know where to look.”

Anne accepts that and begins asking about ancestors on the tree. Hop Pop explains how each of the ancestors are unique, although none of his kids, or Anne, are impressed by his explanation. Anne then notes how she won’t find any ancestors on the shrub (which is true). Pop then says that you can be related to another person in a family, but not by blood. That’s because she is part of the family grouping, although she can’t claim any of their descendants as her own, as she isn’t “indirectly” or “directly” descended from any of them.

Pop continues to be dedicated to finishing the shrub, their version of a family tree, and goes to the store to get glue. After he leaves, Polly says “you’re lucky you’re an outsider, Anne, because our family history is lame.” Sprig then adds that there wasn’t anyone weird, different, or fun. He even looks at a painting, obviously looking like the American Gothic painting, and it opens a secret passageway, exciting them all.

They find a dusty room, with weird scientific samples, in what could be described as a dungeon. They find documents showing the place belonged to their great uncle, Skip Plantar, who turns out to be a farmer and a brilliant scientist at the same time. He experimented with all kinds of things. Sprig wants to know more, so he pulls a lever.

What comes out is…a pumpkin abomination. Sprig saves them both by leaving this creature back into its cage. Then, they fall through the floor and find another room. In this place, it is revealed that their ancestor was not just a turnip farmer but a “turned up warrior” (Polly says this while flexing her muscles)

Then, they find her diary, where she recounts how she was in a “lot of battles.” Sprig, being impulsive, pulls another lever, almost killing them both. They move on through, finding more hidden chambers. In one instance, a diary reveals someone who traveled around, collecting a lot of “cool stuff,” and settled with the Plantars Ann has a revelation: “I had your family history all wrong, guys. The Plantars weren’t just farmers.” Sprig adds that they were “twisted” while Polly says they were “pretty cool.” They eventually get back to the living room, beat up, and exhausted from their journey. They tell Pop about the secret areas with family heirlooms, with Polly saying she is “proud to be a Plantar.” This excites him so much. Polly adds that their ancestors were the “most amazing scientist-warrior farmers ever!” Sprig says that “everyone needs to know about it.”

Pop says he wants to see the rooms below the house as well. Anne tries to caution him, but this doesn’t work. So, he runs down into the dungeon on an adventure, with Anne, Polly, and Sprig going to help him (and Wally who is glued to his back, one of the episode’s side stories). The episode ends there. I have to say that this is one of the best depictions of family history I’ve seen in a while.

The next one is from another of my favorite series, Infinity Train. In the second episode of the show’s second season, “The Family Tree Car,” Mirror Tulip (otherwise known as MT) goes to save the deer which she, and her new friend, Jesse, named “Alan Dracula.” In this episode, they descend a family tree that has two feuding families, the Gillicuty and the Trumbleshanks families. The tree has  talking wooden portraits of the family members, with the families despising each other, but sharing the tree because of marriage between younger member of these two families. As Jesse and MT argue more, it is clear that the tree grows around them, and when they begin to give each other compliments and work together, the tree leaves them alone. Soon, they reach the bottom. Unfortunately, they find Alan who is now starting to climb back up the tree, so MT and Jesse ride him back to the top. MT  agrees to let Jesse come with her, so she can help him get his number (everyone on the train is assigned a number) down.

Climbing down the tree
Two manipulative ancestors
Tree tree branches
Bottom of tree

I just love that this involves ancestors fighting each other, angry, spitting at each other. It reminds me of arguments in the past between my ancestors, annoyed by the distribution of their father’s estate. And that has caused me a lot of headaches now because so many original records from then are lost, that could have helped me find out more about my roots. Luckily, original records still exist.

The fact that the ancestors are fighting with each other is relatively realistic, as is ancestors (like cousins) demanding you take a side in their arguments.

That’s all for this week. Until next time!

Examining a basement newspaper archives in an ongoing animated series

Coming down to the “newspaper archives.” This is clearly another stereotype often employed.

Recently, I reviewed archives and archives themes in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, National Treasure (1 and 2), and in Amphibia, along with the use of records in the ongoing Carmen Sandiego series. Once again, I stumbled upon another mention of archives, this one more positive than any of the other ones I have reviewed in the past.

In the “Fast Times” episode (season 1, episode 7) of the animated series Stretch Armstrong & the Flex Fighters, two of the protagonists, Ricardo and Nathan, do research as the internet goes down. As such, they can’t access the digital databases. One character, Kane, even says that before the digital revolution they would have archives, hard-copies of records, but now everything is online. Another cautionary tale, a bit like what those 1990s Hollywood films focused on.

They do research in his grandfather’s “newspaper archives” which is literally in the basement of his house. As I noted in my last article, putting archives in a basement is a common theme in fictional works.

Inside the archives
Broader view of the newspaper archives
The grandfather talks to them

Anyway, there is a sense the archives is messy, with one character saying the records are “melting.” Nathan’s grandfather acts like the archivist, asking them what they need, almost like that medical doctor, Doctor Oldham, did in Gargantia. So, they lie and say they are doing research for a person at school, saying they need to look through his stacks because the internet is down. He responds interestingly, echoing digital archivists who would also laugh at the idea that stuff that is online is there forever:

Grampa? Nobody needs newspapers anymore, everything’s online now, the internet is forever. Ha! The shelves are local, the stacks worldwide.

He then asks them what they are looking for…

They are looking for anything about “Harkness General.” As he ponders how to respond to them, saying it rings a bell. That ends the first part of the archives scene, coming to a total of about 45 seconds. That’s because the story comes back to another of the protagonists, Jake, in their attempt to catch the villain who can summon electricity. We then come back to the archives later on, where the grandfather finds something, and discovers something which surprises them, still looking through old newspapers for clues.

He connects the dots and comes to realization that his grandson, Nathan, and his friend Ricardo, and Jake (unnamed) are the Flex Fighters. What a smart guy! He was able to figure this out, but somehow no one else can? He does admit he was a former reporter who can smell the scoop. This extends the scene in the archives to a little more than a minute. The next scene shows Wingspan (otherwise known as Nathan) displaying the newspaper they got from the old newspaper archives. It shows that Harkness General was an energy company devoted to “maximizing  conventional power sources,” and how, when Rook took over energy production for the city, the company was put out of business. In the process, their villain, Dr. Sarah Kamen, lost everything, and blamed Rook for it all.

Rook realizes she has been beating them, so he gives them all specialized bikes. Later, Nathan says that his grandfather knows they are the flex fighters but vows not to tell. And hey, something else pops up at the end of the episode. A library! The second time it made an appearance in the series, with Jake hiding from Riya, who he likes, too afraid to face her.

Ultimately Jake does get what he wants, with Riya agreeing to go with him to the dance. She realizes he is different than any of the other people, yet she hates the Flex Fighters, which obviously will create a complication for him in the future. Interestingly, in the following episode, “Lie Sandwich,” the Flex Fighters encounter something which had been “archived” in the storage facility, following existing procedure. Furthermore, Nathan’s grandpa offered to cover for them and say they are working for his newspaper and by the end of the episode, Jake takes him up on this offer. This grandfather, by the end of the first season, was accepting of Nathan’s role as a Flex Fighter.

Many episodes later, episode 4 of season 2, “Rise of the Tech Man,” the newspaper archives reappears! In the beginning of that episode all the characters there (Jake, Nathan, and Ricardo along with Erica and Riya) along with a cat. Riya praises Nathan’s grandfather for the fact he has records no one else has about Rook Unlimited, which makes her overjoyed. So great to see that in a character. The archives serves a role once more!

The grandfather also talks about the clampdown of information by Rook, the show’s villain by season 2, and how he has an archive of records which is kept safe from them. If Rook knew it existed, however, then he would probably destroy it. However, he hasn’t done that yet because Rook doesn’t know their real identities at the present time.

At this point, we can ask ourselves: what kind of organizational methods is he using anyhow? I mean, come on! Yes, the materials are organized into local and international areas, but is there any rhyme or reason for how the information is stored? Is it in subject areas? Considering the grandfather is a former reporter, I would imagine that there is some sort of organization, although I’m not completely sure if there is an index. I say that because in the first episode we see the newspaper archives they are doing a lot of digging to find out about the company. You wouldn’t be doing that if there was more of a proper index, perhaps. I mean, that’s my thought at least.

In continuing to watch the series, in another episode, Biomass, there is a brief scene in the newspaper archives. The grandfather knows their teacher, they find out his family fell through the ice and that he has been alone ever since! It turns out that the robot plant of teacher, Savoc, is planning something… and Savoc is the monster, Biomass! The location has become a bit of a meeting place for the show’s heroes, to say the least.

At the end of the episode the grandfather meets Savoc, now just a normal professor, who declares joyfully: “some say I’m packrat, archivist I say!”

I chuckled a little at this line. This is perhaps the best portrayal of an archivist I have seen in animation up to this point.

The newspaper archives comes up one more time in the series. The protagonists meet Nathan’s grandfather and Savoc there in the episode, “Masters of Order.” They look at newspapers for more info about the Epsilon Society. The grandfather tells them to keep searching for any amount of information to help.

Then, the academy library reappears, again, with Savoc and the grandfather walking into the school library. When they go to the library and read books, one character is annoyed at the lack of order, calling it “a jumbled mess.” They are finding nothing and realize they aren’t the only ones there.

In the next episode, the last one of season 2 of the series, titled “Doomsday Clock,” finishes this story. The former security officer for Rook Unlimited says that he was searching for something in the library and he said he’d be willing to help them look for something, finding a paper by a young Jonathan Rook outlining how mind control works.

Library for the win, again! This is nothing like Zevo-3 where a library is in an abandoned part of town and a character does hacking into the government satellite archive at a library, getting an old elderly librarian arrested. Also, archives for the win, because archives are a strong part of the series, giving the characters the information they need.

With that, I’m concluding this post. Until next week!

Librarian-less libraries strike again (in the animation world)!

On this blog, I recently examining four anime libraries. In this post I’m going to review several other animated series, all of which have library scenes. However, I won’t be covering the wanna-be librarian Mei in Ascendance of a Bookworm or Lilith, the guardian of the great library in Yami, the Hat, and the Travelers of the Books, also known as Yami to Boshi to Hon no Tabibito, Yamibo, and Yamibou. Instead, this post will focus on four of my new favorite animated series: Cleopatra in Space (ongoing and will soon be streaming on Peacock starting on April 15), Sym-Bionic Titan, Stretch Armstrong & the Flex Fighters, and El-Hazard.

The first one I’ll review is my new favorite animated series, Cleopatra in Space, various episodes are set in a school library. In the first episode the library is featured in (“Clubbing”), the show’s protagonist, Cleopatra “Cleo,” visits with her friends Akila, Brian, and mentor Khensu, looking at the Ancient Egypt section, with most files only available through holograms, not many physical records. After being distressed by what she sees, she glows pink, sucking the power from the whole academy complex, causing a power outage.

In any case, the library has a vital importance in the series itself because it contains stored knowledge not destroyed by the show’s villain in his quest to “take control of all recorded knowledge.” Cleo’s mentor may be part of the library staff or may act as a docent from time to time, part of the library’s special collections. Furthermore, Akila seems to spend her time studying there, a place where books are moved across on floating carts, with students able to pick out books for their studies. She seems to enjoy studying in is a quiet environment, while she also thinks that the cool kids are those that go to a library. [1]

Cleo, Akila, and Brian see the few items in the library which are presented by Khensu
Khensu presents to Cleo the only document that mentions her by name
Akila studies in the library in “Akila Says No”

Anyway, the scene in the episode “Clubbing” is vital to the storytelling in that episode and the series, as a whole. Unfortunately, this is another case of a librarian-less library, all too common in animation from what I have found so far. The fact that one of the three protagonists, Akila, likes studying in the library, is awesome, I have to say. I haven’t seen an animation which has had a character like that, which is why I respect her even more for it! Additionally, the same episode shows books being moved on floating dallies across the library.

I’d also like to, today, review a scene in Sym-Bionic Titan, a short-lived show created and produced by Genndy Tartokovsky (who also created Samurai Jack and Star Wars: The Clone Wars), I stumbled across this. In the show’s fourth episode, one of the protagonists, Lance, tries to meet Ilana in the high school library. Unfortunately, he is only there by himself.

Other than the computer monitor, you don’t see anything more in this library, only books, another one of the common library stereotypes. In any case, this setting is clearly based on what you commonly see in school settings.

Lance walks through the stacks with the library strangely and eerily deserted for reasons which are not completely explained. Where are the students in this library and where is the librarian? That is never really explained. The whole scene in the library is probably not even a minute long. As I noted on Twitter, the setting is basically “set dressing” because nothing substantive that adds to the story happens there, compared to other series I have reviewed in the past. Additionally, the area where the librarian would be sitting is vacant!

Another animated show is similar, but the scene is more important to the story. I’m talking about the 2017-2018 Netflix series, Stretch Armstrong & the Flex Fighters. In season 1, episode 3, titled “Ninja and the Ghost,” one of the protagonists, Jake Armstrong goes to the library to find answers. Once again, this is another case of a librarian-less library, an annoying trend in animations from what I can tell. The library itself looks like a typical academic library, reminding me a bit of those in Revolutionary Girl Utena, although libraries in that series had more of a role. You do see someone pushing a cart with books, although they are probably just a library worker rather than a librarian.

In this scene, which about half a minute, Jake looks at records, finding out that Dr. C used to work at the Academy for Future Leadership. He also finds out that she built many of the buildings in the city. He then looks at blueprints, which just happen to be in the library, similar to the scene in Amphibia where the blueprints to the house’s original water pipes are in easy reach for the characters. A bit too convenient, if you ask me, but it does fit with the story.

And what does Jake do? He follows Dr. C, finding her office, hidden behind a bookshelf. He finds blueprints on her desk. This leads him on a journey across the city to find her and the truth behind what is happening.

While the scene is short, it does contribute to the overall story. That makes this episode worth noting in the end.

Let me also bring in a few scenes from the 1990s anime, El-Hazard. In the show’s second episode (“The World of Beautiful Girls”), part of The Magnificent World OVA, the resident scholar of the mystical land brings out the records to find out any information they need to know about Makoto’s powers.

The scene involves them working together in the library to find out about his powers. The character helping them is not a librarian, to be clear.

In the sixth episode of the series (“The World of Gleaming Light”) we see the library again as Alielle is looking for her there:

No action is shown in the library at all. Only a short scene and then the characters move onto another location. The library does look pretty and full of books! You could say that knowledge hurts, to quote from Sprig in Amphibia which I reviewed earlier on this blog.

In the next OVA for El-Hazard titled The Magnificent World 2, Makoto is working at the library as a scholar. Again, no librarians are shown.

He later even talks to his sister about it, noting his studies in the library, showing the importance of the library as a place of knowledge and understanding, at least in this anime series. This is another positive message when it comes to libraries which should be applauded without question.

Another library pops up in the next episode of the OVA titled “The Awakening of Kalia.” It’s not much of a mention but it does become an important part of the story, like those mentioned earlier in this article. Likely the library is damaged, if not destroyed, during the fighting that commences in this episode:

Again, another instance of a librarian-less library. Reminds me of the fifth episode of Roswell Conspiracies: Aliens, Myths and Legends, “Peacemaker” where the protagonist literally has a fight with aliens inside a library. Of course, the library is deserted and the library is horribly damaged as this protagonist basically helps destroy it in order to get back at the aliens, defeating them once and for all. I’ve watched other episodes of that show and in none of them is there another scene in a library, which could have been rectified.

That’s all for this week. Until next week’s post!


Notes

[1] In the show’s final episode, there is this exchange:

Brian: I’ve tracked her tab to this location [an arcade].

Khensu: I’ve heard about this place! Its where all the cool students hang out, isn’t it?

Akila: Uh, ahem, I think you’ll find the cool students hang out in the library.

Khensu: I’m…sure you believe that.

Pleasant Rest Cemetery, access limits, and the power of community

Picture of cemetery I visited today

Recently, as I was walking around Towson, me and my dad stumbled upon an unmarked cemetery. I took a few pictures and examined a few headstones. I wasn’t there to examine anything, but just explore. I did the same at a cemetery in Cape Cod and have gone to a bunch of cemeteries in the course of my genealogy research. But this was different. I had a suspicion it was a Black cemetery because one of the stones for a 64-year-old man named John E. Forman read as follows, who I’ll focus on later:

John E. Foreman who died on the 11th August 1909 in the 64th year of his age. He was a Trustee and Class Leader of the Zion African Methodist Church, Govanstown, of which his Father was one of the founders. He was an upright, industrious and…[cut off by grass]

After taking a couple other pictures, I went on my way, later posting them on Instagram. Once I got back home, I did some digging and found the name of the cemetery: Pleasant Rest Cemetery. As it turned out, the cemetery was a historic Black cemetery owned by Mt. Olive Baptist Church as noted in the Baltimore Sun in September 2011. Apart from learning how the Preservation Alliance of Baltimore County has set aside money to help preserve the cemetery (I’m not sure how much), the cemetery is still active with a burial there in September of last year. I also learned that the grandfather of Adelaide Bentley, President of the North East Towson Improvement Association, born in 1928, co-founded “the Mount Olive Baptist Church at the corner of York Road and Bosley Avenue” as the Baltimore Sun reported in February 2019. Not long after, the Mount Calvary African Methodist Episcopal Church was built, with the first stones laid in 1855. The church is specifically located on the corner of York Rd. and Bosley Ave. in Towson, with “a white steeple and a unique & stain glass window facing the road” as MapQuest describes it. I put together this article in hopes of submitting a description of the cemetery to Find A Grave as I suggested on Twitter. I learned a lot more than about the cemetery however.

Getting back to John E. Foreman. Who was this man, anyway? We know that the Zion African Methodist Church in Govanstown could have been a branch of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, a historically Black Protestant denomination based in New York City, officially officially recognized in 1821 and also known as the Freedom Church. It is not the same as the AME Church as some have pointed out. If correct, this church would be part of the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal District. I did some searching and found a mention of church in Govanstown in the 1874 Minutes of the Annual Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Years 1773-1881. Other books seemed to mention the church as well. After some searching, I came across a 1898 obituary of a man which appeared to be John E. Forman’s father, named William Waters Foreman, born in Govanstown, Md., October 12, 1821. This man was the son of Isaac Foreman, a local preacher of the Church. He was twice married, first to Miss Ruth Ann Weeks, of Baltimore, Md., November 12, 1843, and second to Mrs. Annie C. Molock, September 29, 1892.

Unfortunately, this obituary doesn’t list his children and I don’t know whether it was the correct person. We know that John E. Forman was born, approximately, in 1845 going by his age listed on his tombstone. Doing some searching, I found a John Forman living in Baltimore City in 1860, although it is not the same person. There is also one John Henry Foreman born in Prince George’s Parish in 1845, but I can’t confirm it is the same person. When I tried to search for ANYTHING on the 1900 census on FamilySearch, specifically to examine an entry for John Forman, I got this message:

This is a disgusting limitation on access. I remember when you used to be able to examine the 1900 census on FamilySearch. That’s no longer allowed unless you have special access. Why? This should be condemned without question. I also can’t access it on Ancestry unless I have a subscription. You can look through the ones added to the NARA catalog, but the entries for the 1900 census for Maryland have not been added yet. In any case, I continued onward.

Frustrated with this, I searched on some library databases and didn’t find much. Only some scattered articles, including one which lists a W.W. Foreman as a person being appointed for Buckeystown, Maryland in 1894. [1] Recommendations to help me fulfill this story are welcome.

Since that went nowhere, I decided to search for the church and cemetery. When it came to Mt. Olive Baptist Church, I found stories talking about its activities like entertaining the Relief Association of Baltimore County in 1926 and 1927 [2], how the Colored Baptist Convention was held there in 1911 [3], and the church hosted a bazaar in 1915. [4] There were a lot of false drops because of the number of churches also named “Mt. Olive Baptist Church” in other parts of the country. There are likely other stories there, but I’m not in the mood to weed through a bunch of sources right now. But, the door is open for others to expand this story. Undoubtedly, Louis Diggs writes about it in his book, Since the Beginning: African-American Communities in Towson, but more stories can still be told.

Searches for “Pleasant Rest Cemetery” were more successful. There were obituaries [5] and such, but most interesting was a 1921 article talking about the Timonium-Towson Trolley. [6] Here’s what it noted:

Shake hands with the only trolley car in Maryland that has a smokestack and coal scuttle, and travels a route that goes down hill both ways! ‘Tis the Timonium-Towson trolley. If  you think you can’t shake hands with her get in and take a ride, and you will not only shake hands but head, shoulders and teeth as well, particular in the neighborhood of the Pleasant Rest Cemetery, where departed members of the Mount Olive Baptist Church (colored) lie buried not far
from the track…But she stops anywhere. You can get right at your front door and now and then she goes around and stops at back doors. Of course she only stops at her regular stations, but they are plentiful enough; you wouldn’t want to stop in the middle of the woos or at the Pleasant Rest Cemetery, and those are about the only places where there aren’t any station.

That article was funny, but also revealing. I then came across an obituary in 1932 which revealed hat 73-year-old Alexander Frazier helped found and erect the Mt. Olive Baptist Church, seemingly with a man named James Williams. [7] What Rev. Avery Penn of the Mount Olive Baptist Church said, being tired of the county conducting negative actions that could affect his congregation, does give a bit of the background of the struggles the church has faced over the years:

In 1985 the county told us that we needed to move the church, move the church that had been there since 1888…To comply with the county, we tore it down, turned it around and moved back in. Guess what they told us. That is was going to be a gateway and it had to be something that would be pretty…We would walk out of the church, carry the body up to the cemetery on green ground. Baltimore County came along and decided that they would cut off the cemetery. They brought Bosley Avenue down across there, cut off what was Kenilworth and cut us off from the cemetery. They took the house — the church’s parsonage — you know where it was? It was right where Bosley Avenue is, right beside the church. The put it on telephone poles and they rolled it around behind the church, and that’s where it is today, that duplex house. Baltimore County did that. They built a fire house over there. They went where we walked up to the cemetery and they built a police station. And they told me I had to tear down the church and build something nice and I did it. Twenty six years later Baltimore County wants to take all my effort with the pretty church and come to the other side of the road and put a gas station.

This really shows the importance of the church to this community and its continuing value to this day. This is likely why White people have targeted the church in the past, not only by burning crosses outside the church but the vandalism of the church with White supremacist symbols in 2016. [8]

As a 1990s article about the church noted, it stands as a symbol of “the vibrant black community of Sandy Bottom that founded it and disappeared under the wheels of the commercial encroachment that has re-created Towson,” with much of the property which composed Sandy Bottom was “originally bought and settled by the families of freed slaves and eventually sold to white real estate agents and developers.” I personally stand with this church as it defends itself from encroachment by various forces, whether White developers, the County government, or anyone else.


Notes

[1] Special Dispatch to the,Baltimore Sun. “COLORED METHODISTS.: CLOSING SESSION–ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE APPOINTMENTS FOR 1894.” The Sun (1837-1994), Mar 13, 1894, pp. 6. ProQuest.

[2] “Towson, Md.” Afro-American (1893-1988), Nov 19, 1927, pp. 14. ProQuest; “TOWSON, MD.” Afro-American (1893-1988), May 29, 1926, pp. 12. ProQuest.

[3] “Maryland Baptist State Convention.” Afro-American (1893-1988), Jun 17, 1911, pp. 4. ProQuest.

[4] Special to The Afro-American Ledger. “Throughout the State of Maryland: LONG GREEN HAPPENINGS.” Afro-American (1893-1988), Apr 03, 1915, pp. 3. ProQuest.

[5] “DONALDSON, BARBARA A.: [FINAL EDITION].” The Sun, Jun 15, 2006, pp. 1. ProQuest; “JOHNSON, MADELON B.” The Sun, Mar 05, 2008. ProQuest; “BARGER, CHARLES.” The Sun, Sep 02, 2007. ProQuest; “JENKINS, SR., JAMES T.: [FINAL EDITION].” The Sun, Apr 02, 2006, pp. 1. ProQuest; “Mrs. Shurn.” Afro-American (1893-1988), Mar 12, 1966, pp. 18. ProQuest; “MRS. PINDER.” Afro-American (1893-1988), May 26, 1928, pp. 18. ProQuest. This is only a sampling of the obituaries listed for this cemetery on ProQuest.

[6] “Maryland’s Unique Trolley Car Runs Down Hill either Way: Voyage Over TimoniumTowson Route A Lesson to the Uninitiated “COASTING” SAVES BATTERIES’ “JUICE” One-Man Crew Becomes Expert in Conserving His Electricity.” The Sun (1837-1994), Dec 18, 1921, pp. 12. ProQuest.

[7] “AGED TOWSON MAN BURIED SUNDAY.” Afro-American (1893-1988), Feb 06, 1932, pp. 19. ProQuest. The church is also, apparently, mentioned within Neal A. Brooks and Eric G. Rockel‘s A History of Baltimore County, along other books.

[8] “2 from Towson Named in July Cross Burnings.” The Sun (1837-1994), Aug 26, 1980, pp. 1. ProQuest.