The Crown: Elizabeth’s Vocation

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One of Netflix’s latest hit original series is The Crown, a historical drama centering on the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she deals with the loss of her father and transitions into her new life as the Queen of England. There are many things that I liked about this series, but this post will look into how the duty of being queen reminded me of having a vocation and how that vocation affected Elizabeth’s relationships with her husband as well as her sister.

The Queenly Vocation

The word “vocation” in Catholic circles often calls to mind people who become priests or nuns. Some people believe that God created us with a certain vocation in mind. In Elizabeth’s case, she knew that she would be queen eventually because it’s a duty inherited by her birthright and bestowed on her upon the death of her father. The coronation ceremony shown in “Smoke and Mirrors” reminded me of the sacrament of Holy Orders or Confirmation, as Elizabeth is anointed with oil on her hands, chest, and head.

One aspect to having a religious vocation is that sometimes, a person’s name is changed. This was the case for Elizabeth’s father and her uncle, who took on different names upon becoming king. Elizabeth chose to keep hers. However, she still goes through a different sort of change in her identity. Towards the end of the 2nd episode “Hyde Park Corner,” Elizabeth receives a letter from her grandmother, Queen Mary. In that letter, Queen Mary tells Elizabeth that “Elizabeth Mountbatten” has been replaced by “Elizabeth Regina,” her persona as Queen and tells her that “The crown must win, must always win.”

This brings me to the third aspect of the show that reminded me of having a religious vocation: the vow of obedience. While Elizabeth is both married and rich, she was still expected to obey the duties given to her. Upon her coronation, Elizabeth vowed to maintain and preserve the traditions and laws of her country as well as the Church of England. The vow of obedience to God and country is what provides the main conflict between Elizabeth and her loved ones, particularly her husband and her sister.

Queen, Wife, and Sister

The main reason I decided to watch The Crown was because I wanted to see how Matt Smith would be outside of the world of science fiction. Prince Philip Mountbatten aka The Duke of Edinburgh is Elizabeth’s husband and for a while, it’s clear that the two of them love each other. However, Elizabeth’s duties as queen put major restrictions on Prince Philip’s life. Gender roles have been reversed as Elizabeth is the one with the “breadwinning” career while Philip is stuck trying to make the most of his life as the “homemaker” and is often seen playing with the kids.

The marriage takes a great strain towards the latter half of the first season as Philip has to give up his surname, the house he and Elizabeth bought and had renovated,  and was extremely limited in what kind of leisurely hobbies he could pursue. He was still allowed to socialize, but he still wanted to be the head of the household, even if Elizabeth was Queen. By the time the first season ends, Philip is heading to Australia to help out with the Olympics, feeling like his role of husband has been erased.

Worse still, however, is how Elizabeth’s role of queen affects her relationship with her sister Margaret. From the beginning of the season, Margaret is in the midst of an affair with the married Peter Townsend. Even though Elizabeth wants her sister to be happy, she couldn’t allow Margaret and Peter to marry.

While I understand Margaret’s desires to stand out from her older sister’s shadow, I honestly think that her relationship with Peter is foolish, even if you consider him to be the “innocent party” in his divorce. Margaret is a woman in her early 20s and is already set to marry when most women her age with her personality would be playing the field in terms of dating. I’m not saying she should play fast and loose with her heart, but her belief that she will never love someone as much as she loves Peter is a foolish one. I also didn’t like how she treated her sister and undermined Elizabeth’s love for their father.

While I don’t think I’ll ever be an Anglophile the way that others are, The Crown pulls me into the drama of Elizabeth’s life because it shows how being the queen is a unique, Anglican version of a vocation and how that vocation will affect the lives of Elizabeth’s family, for better or for worse. I can’t wait to see Season 2 and I hope that Elizabeth and Peter will make an effort to keep their marriage strong.

In Defense of Silence

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To quote The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” Silence shows both sides of this statement.

People who are familiar with the movies from Martin Scorsese are familiar with his themes on guilt, redemption, pride, morality. And usually these themes are portrayed in a gritty, dramatic, and even tragic light. There’s a controversy surrounding Silence because many people, including Bishop Robert Barron, mistakenly believe that the movie promotes apostasy. They forget that the story is historical fiction and that the story arc of Fr. Sebastian Rodrigues isn’t a heroic journey, but a tragedy.

Spoilers for Silence ensue.

I think people forget what a real tragedy is supposed to do. Many people love watching shows like House of Cards, How to Get Away with Murder, and Suits which all have villainous protagonists and the show essentially sides with them even as they endure lots of drama. The protagonists of these shows are not to be admired or imitated or even mourned over if they ever lose the power they gain.

A real tragedy, however, can be found in plays such as Hamlet or Macbeth and even in characters such as Iron Man, who lost his friends and loved ones due to his own hubris and paranoia. The character of Sebastiao Rodrigues is an authentic example of a tragic hero. We aren’t meant to imitate him, but mourn him and learn a lesson from his bad judgment.

In traditional tragedies, the central character has a tragic flaw. Macbeth’s is ambition, Othello’s is jealousy. Sebastiao Rodrigues’s flaw in the movie is implied to be vanity. There’s a moment in the movie where Fr. Rodrigues sees his reflection in the water and sees Jesus’s face as his own. His old mentor, Fr. Ferreira, berates him for daring to compare himself to Christ. Now while having a God complex is never a good thing, I think that Fr. Rodrigues was just trying to act in persona Christi. He had such a devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus that touched my heart.

I think Rodrigues’s real tragic flaw was an interior struggle with a spiritual darkness. This darkness only grew as he watched the defenseless villagers offer themselves up to protect him, to the point that many of them are tortured and eventually die for their beliefs.

When I looked up the era that the novel took place in, I learned that at the time, there weren’t many saints or texts outside of the Psalms that talked about spiritual darkness. It’s possible that Rodrigues didn’t know how to deal with the darkness because he never learned of anyone else who dealt with it. I’m also surprised that Psalm 88 isn’t mentioned, as I think that the Psalm captures Rodrigues’s interior struggle.

In his video review of Silence, Bishop Robert Barron compares the apostate priests to soldiers who defect to the enemy. I think what Bishop Barron forgot, however, is that many soldiers in real life suffer from PTSD. I think that the psychological torture Rodrigues was put under led to him developing a spiritual PTSD. He let himself be consumed by the darkness and apostatized out of a distorted attempt at heroism. 

Rodrigues and Ferreira suffered a fate worse than death as a result of their apostasy: they became what they hated the most and make sure Christianity is not brought into Japan anymore. They are mocked by the children and are ordered to take on a new name. They also take a wife, but it’s never shown if they have any relations with the women they ended up marrying.

It’s shown that even after he apostatized, Rodrigues is still put under great scrutiny. He never completely wins over the trust of the Japanese overlords. In the end, Rodrigues’s entire identity as a Christian completely eradicated as he is given a Buddhist funeral and buried under the name that the Japanese overlords gave him. The only evidence of the man he once was is the crucifix that is shown in his hands as his body is burned.

I don’t think that these events glamorize or promote apostasy. Rather, they show the consequences of sin, in this case, the apostasy: separation from God and loss of self. The film shows the brutality of martyrdom, but giving into spiritual darkness is equally tragic.

I highly recommend Silence to those who want to see a good example of a modern tragedy and I think it’s even a good film to watch for Lent because of its look into spiritual darkness. Just bring tissues and ice cream. You’re going to need it.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for those who apostatize and struggle with spiritual darkness.

Image is used for editorial purposes only.

The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love: A Book Review

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I bought The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love last year while working on my own novel for NaNoWriMo. As someone who loves conventions, cosplay, and geek/nerd life in general, I knew that I would love this book as soon as I read the summary.

The “geek” in question from the title of the book is sixteen year old Graham William Posner, “lanky, pale, glasses, with a penchant for fantasy worlds.” He has a crush on his best friend, Roxy and hopes that going to New York Comic Con with her would provide him with the opportunity for him to confess his feelings, especially when one of the guests at NYCC is Robert Zinc, a reclusive comic book writer who is stepping out of the shadows for the first time in forever. Of course, things don’t go the way Graham hopes, especially when Roxy hits it off with a guy she meets at the con.

As Graham tries to get the best NYCC experience possible and impress Roxy in the process, the reader is treated to a very genuine perspective of what it’s like to be at a con: the costumes, the merch, the panels, and  all the unique events that fans get to go to. All the while,  Graham continually fails at impressing Roxy and eventually learns that his feelings are unrequited.

What makes this book work is that you really root for Graham and he never acts like he’s entitled to Roxy’s love. He gets jealous of the new guy, but he eventually learns that it’s okay to not get the girl. The book may not end with the conventional happily ever after, but I still love it because by the time the story ends, you see how much Graham has matured and his desires change towards things bigger than just getting the girl.

I recommend this book to all my nerdy friends and to people who can learn a thing or two about being in love. We’ve all experienced unrequited love and this book shows how people can deal with it in a healthy way without friendships taking collateral damage. It’s refreshing to find a story that focuses more on selfless love and friendship rather than the tired love triangles and “pretty people problems” you see in every other YA novel.

We need more books like this!

Starting a New Chapter

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You might be wondering where I’ve been. You might be wondering why I haven’t commented anything regarding current events. You might be wondering about the new domain name.

This year has started off well, in spite of the divisions that politics inevitably cause. Like many people, I’m starting out on some new ventures this year. This website is one of them.

What are you gonna find here? I’m gonna be reviewing books, movies, and occasionally talk about the TV shows I like. I may also share poetry and my latest knitting projects. I did a lot of knitting last fall and I haven’t stopped.

In a world where everyone seems to go towards one extreme viewpoint or the other, this is a place where I hope a middle ground can be found. I won’t talk about politics often on here, but if and when I do, I hope that you will read my opinions with an open mind.

This blog is the start of a new chapter in my life. For the past few years, I’ve been contemplative. My hope for this year is that I start taking action and speak out on things that matter to me, even if it’s on something as small as a good book or something as big as going to a convention.

I hope you can join me on this next chapter.

What St. Margaret of Cortona Can Teach to Women

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In recent months, I discovered a saint that I never met before: St. Margaret of Cortona. I first learned her name while I was browsing my parish’s Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk. There was a CD about her paired with Saint Augustine as a saint for sinners. Given how familiar I was with Augustine’s story, I had to wonder how this other woman could’ve compared in terms of flagrant sinning and heartfelt penance.

It’s a brand new year and in the story of my life, I begin a new chapter as I turn 27 years old. When people reach their birthday, they often reflect on the previous year. In many ways 2016 to me was a year of friendship. I came to value my friends in Heaven, in the city that I call home, in my old hometown, and online. St. Margaret of Cortona became one of these new friends. At the same time, my friendship with two other ladies fell apart. These friendships were with Rory Gilmore and Taylor Swift.

I know what you’re thinking. Rory Gilmore is a fictional character and Taylor Swift is a celebrity. I’m not actually friends with either of them. That is true, but for the longest time, I felt like these two females were like best friends to me. Rory Gilmore was the friend I had in middle school, back when Gilmore Girls was on TV. I related to Rory because she liked to read, she went to a school where everyone wore uniforms like I did, and she wanted to go to college and be a journalist, which were my dreams at the time. Taylor Swift felt like my best friend when I started living in Texas. Her songs of the boys who broke her heart resonated with 16-year-old me and she stayed with me as I transitioned from high school to college and from college into young adulthood.

2016 changed all that. I started binge watching Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new mini-series revival coming to Netflix in November. (Incidentally: Spoilers ensue for Year In The Life.)

Initially, I felt nostalgic, seeing Stars Hollow and watching Rory survive Chilton and make her way to Yale. When she got started at Yale, though, I started feeling disappointed in her. She was still in love with Dean to the point that she slept with him, even though he was married. She hooks up with Logan in Season 5 and decides to drop out of Yale when she steals a boat as a reaction to Logan’s father telling her she’s not cut out to be a journalist. I skipped Season 7 and jumped straight into Year In The Life in the hopes that things would get better, but the mini-series turned out to be a mixed bag. Rory’s character regressed from bad to worse.

She was perfectly happy being Logan’s mistress until she realizes that he was going to honor his “arranged marriage.” And mind you, I actually liked Logan for a while. I also didn’t like her “struggles” in making a living as a freelance writer. She didn’t put much effort into chasing stories that would land her a byline. The only story she did pursue bored her to death and she slept with a guy dressed as a Wookie in the process. There was a website that wanted her to write for them, but she showed up to the interview completely unprepared and later lashed out at the website’s owner when she gave the job to someone else. Then, of course, was the end of the mini-series. I don’t want to spoil for those who didn’t watch. All I can say is I rolled my eyes and went “Here we go again.”

As far as Taylor Swift went, she started 2016 off well, but the pedestal I had for her shook when she broke up with Calvin and started having a feud with him. Bad news in regards to Taylor Swift kept coming. I hated that she dated Tom Hiddleston and felt happy when they broke up. I was hoping she’d start making a new album, as she did every two years, but instead, towards the end of 2016, she released a song she did from former One Direction band member Zayn for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack.

It felt like a stab in the back. I looked the other way when she became friends with Lena Dunham and tried to make peace with her removing her songs from Spotify. But for someone who claimed to be a feminist, contributing a song to a movie that continue to glamorize an abusive relationships was the last thing I wanted her to do. What’s worse is that the lyrics are sad, and not in the sad, beautiful, tragic way some of her other songs were. “I Don’t Want To Live Forever’s” lyrics capture a state of despair and co-dependent tendencies. I wanted Taylor to be happy and thought that she was after releasing 1989 and being in a relationship with Calvin. The Taylor I knew doesn’t exist anymore.

So back to Margaret of Cortona. What does she have with these two ladies? Well, like Taylor Swift, her life was sort of like the beginning of a fairy tale. She had a tumultuous relationship with her father and a stepmother who could give Lady Tremaine or Regina Mills a run for their money. Margaret, however, had an independent spirit, which gave her the strength to stand up to her wicked stepmother. Unfortunately, she was also “by nature one of those women who thirst for affection, in whom to be loved is the imperative need of their lives,” according to Fr. Albert Goodier. She became willful and reckless and eventually left her family.

Starved for love and being a woman who was quite beautiful, Margaret eventually became the mistress of a wealthy nobleman and ends up having his child. It’s not unlike how Rory Gilmore spent almost a decade being Logan’s mistress and feeling complacent in that relationship until he honors his marriage to someone else. But unlike Rory Gilmore, whose story arc in Year in the Life can be summed up as being the Poor Little Rich Girl, Margaret actually tried to make something of her life even after she leaves her love her and her family disowns her.

St. Margaret of Cortona went to live with an order of Franciscan monks who helped her take care of her kid. She dedicated the rest of her life to atoning for her former sinful life. Like Saint Francis, she worked for her meals and took whatever her employers paid her. Eventually, she would give her wages to those who needed it more. She founded a hospital, created a confraternity so that the hospital would always have employees, and eventually helped to restore a church.

So why am I writing about St. Margaret of Cortona now? According to Fr. Goodier, St. Margaret had her change of heart around the age of 27. As of right now, I am the same age as Taylor Swift and five years younger than Rory Gilmore. If there’s one New Year’s Resolution that I want to keep this year, it’s that I pick some better role models. I think St. Margaret of Cortona would be a good one for me, as well as for single moms and any other woman with relationship issues.

St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.

The Tragedy of Rogue One

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I’ll be the first one to say that I’m a casual Star Wars fan at best. I respect the films for the impact they made on culture and I like the overall story of the original trilogy and the themes of the prequel trilogy. The Force Awakens was also one that I really liked.  What makes Rogue One different from all the other Star Wars movies I saw was that it made the biggest emotional impact on me.

What I Liked About Rogue One

Why do I love Rogue One so much? It’s honestly the characters.

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) starts out the movie with a lot of understandable cynicism towards both sides of the war. Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) took a while to grow on me because he was an intelligence officer who will do whatever it takes to defeat the Empire, even if it means doing morally questionable actions.  The comic relief robotK-2SO (played by Alan Tudyk) proves to be a useful ally when the situation calls for it. Bodhi Rook is a former Imperial pilot who contributes his knowledge of protocols and technology to the mission.

Baze Malbus (played by Jiang Wen) and Chirtrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen) are the characters who steal the show for me. I love their backstory of being former temple guardians. Baze is the weapons expert whose gun is just made of awesome. He also shows to have a big heart underneath his harsh exterior. Chirrut, on the other hand, is the devout, blind warrior monk who dodges Stormtrooper blasts with ease and provides some nice levity to this otherwise heavy movie. His mantra is also my favorite line from the movie: “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.”

Orson Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is an intimidating villain and he almost wins in this movie if not for Jyn’s determination. And seeing Darth Vader again sent chills up my spine.

What really sticks in my mind, though, is the third act. Without going into spoilers, the way that the movie ended had me crying legit tears. It shows that wars are not won without sacrifices.

A Tangent on Faith/The Force

Although the religion of the Jedi/The Force is mostly inspired by the monomyth of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With A Thousand Faces and has aspects that aren’t compatible with Catholicism, I’m glad that the Force acts as more of a metaphor for faith in this movie and not as a deux ex machina that provides the characters with superpowers. Chirrut can’t levitate anything or control lightning. He relied on his heightened senses, his martial arts skills, his staff, and on Baze having his back. And yet his faith in The Force gives him courage to endure the battlefront.

 

Minor Nitpicks

The rest of the Rebel Alliance, though, is kind of disappointing. I understand that they are at a low point and have to rely on mercenaries and assassins to make up their task forces, but their lack of trust in Jyn is what leads to the Rogue Squad’s eventual downfall. I also didn’t like that Saw Gerrera was only around for the first act. I heard that he has a larger role in the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and I wanted to see him growing with Jyn.

Carrie Fisher

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention seeing a digitally remastered young Carrie Fisher at the end of the movie. Rogue One ends with a clear transition in which Princess Leia gets the information that the Rogue Squadron worked so hard to get. Even though I’m only a casual Star Wars fan, I felt numb when I heard the news of her passing. I knew she was a woman who struggled with a lot of things that contrasted with the character of Princess Leia. And yet, Fisher was able to eventually have a good life. I loved that she went back into the role of General Organa for The Force Awakens and wonder how the heck they will handle the character of Princess Leia in the sequels.

I will probably be like a lot of Star Wars fans and remember Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. Right now, though, the last lines from the movie will be the ones that will echo in my mind the most:

Captain Antilles: Your Highness — the transmission we received. What is it that they’ve sent us?
Leia Organa: …Hope.

May the Force be with you, Carrie.

 

Why We Still Need Mercy

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Why Do We Still Need Mercy?

The year of Mercy may be over, but as we enter into 2017, we are in need of mercy now more than ever.

Someone once said to me that they would rather go to Hell than forgive the people who hurt them. To my surprise, a friend of mine who converted from Protestantism said that it’s something a lot of so-called Christians say. It’s hard for me to believe that people who claim to love their neighbor can hold on to a grudge so badly that they are willing to go to Hell for it. Believe me when I say this: Hell is not worth it.

There is a reason why CS Lewis said “The doors to hell are locked from the inside.” Hell is not worth staying angry or being judgmental or believing the lies of opportunistic politicians and fake news. Mercy and forgiveness aren’t just part of being a Christian, they are a part of having a healthy life.

I’m not saying to “forgive and forget.” I’m not saying you should reconcile to the people who hurt you. I’m not saying you should act like nothing happened. I’m asking you to let go. Let go of your anger. Let go of the hatred you feel. This is the greatest act of mercy you can do for the ones you and for yourself. The healing can’t begin until you let it all go.

How does forgiveness tie into mercy?

Whenever some bad news about a shooting or certain political groups comes up, volatile reactions on Twitter often follow afterwards. People blame others or buy into false rhetoric. What nobody seems to realize is that mercy is the real answer. Mercy is given to those you don’t think deserve it because they’re the ones who need it most. Without mercy, we are no better than the people who commit those violent acts and the ones we see as arrogant and overly powerful.

Through mercy and forgiveness, we can find the hope and a renewal of trust we have been lacking this year. We may not be able to trust the ones who’ve hurt us, but we can hope for the best for them and trust that we can be smarter going forward. We can avoid the fate of those who lost someone to death without making amends.

I know that right now, practicing mercy and forgiveness can be an unimaginable thing. But nothing is impossible with God.

What can we do?

I know that right now, everyone’s saying that 2016 has been the worst year in history. Believe me when I say that history has seen worse years. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. The year of Mercy may be over, but since we are in the last week of Advent, I think it would be a good time to start practicing mercy and forgiveness. It even says so in the Bible!

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

– Matthew 5:23-24

Give someone the gift of mercy and forgiveness this Advent.

Epic Rap Battles of (Catholic) History: Nicholas vs Arius

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Epic Rap Battles of History! Nicholas vs Arius! Begin!

Arius:
God is the Supreme, on that we can agree,
but that His son is His equal? I just cannot see!
The son of man was born,
so he was just a creation.
Not the king of all kings and the lord of all nations.

Nicholas:
Watch your mouth, you old heretic, and you’d best write this down
cuz this bishop from Myra is coming to town.
In the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with God,
but you kinda forgot the part where He also WAS God.

Arius:
He was tempted and tried,
he can’t be fully divine.
Tryin to read between the lines?
You’re ripping off of the myths!

Nicholas:
If you keep shooting off at the mouth like this,
you’re gonna find out what happens when this bishop gets pissed!

*PUNCH!*

Arius:
Dude, you shouldn’t have hit me!
Now you’re going to jail! They should brand you like an ox.
You broke the rules. Epic fail!

Nicholas:
Oh yeah, you snake? Cuz Jesus busted me out
so you’d better listen well and you’d better watch out.
I’m rewriting this creed cuz you’re causing a scandal
Our Lord’s begotten, not made, aka consubstantial
BT-Dubz, Our Lord gave me a warning for you
If you try to approach Him, you’ll be spelling your doom
He won’t let you get close, guilt will fill you with gloom
And you’ll die with all of your guts out in a public bathroom.

*End Battle*

Welcome to Earth: A Supergirl Recap

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This episode feels very “ripped from the headlines,” as it addresses the current refugee crisis using aliens as a metaphor. Lynda Carter guest stars as the President of the United States. Kara interviews the anti-alien Lena Luthor as well as the mysterious Kryptonian who escaped from the DEO who turns out to be a Daxamite, a sister planet to Krypton.

Kara weighs over her pro-alien views with her prejudice against Mon-El, the Daxamite. Most of the time, Supergirl would act on the idea that people are innocent until proven guilty. However, she assumes that Mon-El attempted to kill the President. She learns, from working on her interview with Lena and getting feedback from Snapper Carr, that she has to be neutral when reporting, regardless of how she feels about the issue. She also learns that she was wrong to assume the worst about Mon-El because the real villain was a red-headed firestarter alien who saw the Alien Amnesty Act as a backdoor for alien registration.

Since Lynda Carter is guest starring in this episode, there were a couple shout-outs to Wonder Woman. Supergirl does the iconic spinning that Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman was famous for. There’s also a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible jet towards the end.

However, the biggest surprise in this episode was at the stinger, when one of the bartenders at the pro-alien bar is revealed to be a young female Martian. “Hello, Megan!” or so my brother and I would say. (#onlyYoungJusticefanswillgetthis)

One interesting thing to note in this episode is that it introduces Maggie Sawyer, a local cop who embraced a pro-alien lifestyle. She’s also a lesbian and it’s heavily hinted that Alex is very interested in her. I won’t even bother to give my opinion because Tumblr’s already shipping them.

There are two major drawbacks to this episode. One was that the actual villain of the show wasn’t even given a name on-screen. Given that the redheaded lady was a firestarter, I initially thought she was Volcana, a well-known Superman femme fatale. However, the guide on TV Tropes lists her as Scorcher, a DC villain with no ties to the Superman universe whatsoever.

It’s also clear that Mon-El is intended to be Supergirl’s love interest. Coming from two different planets that used to be sworn enemies? The two of them having prejudices about each other that they have to overcome? Dealing with the loss of their respective home planets? You’re basically asking me to ship them.

Except I don’t. Not yet anyway. If the show intends for Mon-El and Kara to be a couple, I need to see Mon-El as a person first and not just as a representative of an alien species that Kara and the other Kryptonians looked down upon.

I’m really glad that this episode is making fans aware of the issues, but I hope the rest of the season has less ripped-from-the-headlines episodes. Next episode proves to be promising as it’s not only a cool Halloween special, with characters in masks, but Dichen Lachman is guest starring as the villain! As a Dollhouse fan, I’m already hyped!

In Defense of the "Strong Independent Woman"

 

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I never thought there would come the day where I would disagree with Bishop Robert Barron on anything, but his latest article about the “You Go Girl” culture made me uneasy.

While I agree that parents in television, particularly dads, are usually portrayed as stupid at best and abusive at worst, I don’t agree with Bishop Robert Barron’s perspective that males are being made to appear weak in order to make women look stronger.

My friend Emily A. said

Men write these characters. In fact, I would claim that these are not elevations of women so much as parodies of both the male AND female characters.
These women aren’t smart, they are smart-asses. They are insufferably naggy women with impossible standards who don’t trust their spouse. And time and time again, the husband seems to prove them right.
The buffoon father is actually a stereotype perpetuated *by men* who want less responsibility.

Additionally, there is something to be said for stereotypes/archetypes: they exist because they *resonate* with people. Stereotypes are merely a compilation of common factors within a certain group. While they fail as a blanket statement, they are not altogether fictitious.
I think Father Barron is mixing up the concept of a caricature and a stereotype. They aren’t equivalent.

At the end of the day, though, we are all humans with failures, husband and wife alike. And we tolerate the worst on the bad days and sometimes have trouble recognizing and celebrating the best on good days. That’s human nature. It’s easier to laugh at those failings embodied in a character than dwell on them and get depressed.

I believe that when Bishop Robert Barron describes the “all conquering female,”  he is thinking of the “Mary Sue.” The best definition I can give of a “Mary Sue” is one I got from video blogger Tommy Oliver (no relation to the Power Rangers): “A character so perfect that they are never challenged by the events of the narrative.” Bella Swan from Twilight is a perfect example of a Mary Sue because the worst problem she ever had to deal with, according to her perspective, is when Edward Cullen dumped her in New Moon. She deals with having a baby and taking down an evil band of vampires way too easily and she gets rewarded for essentially doing nothing of substance. She gets the boyfriend she wanted, the perfect baby, a lavish lifestyle, and immortality, but she never earned or overcame anything in order to get those things.

Rey from The Force Awakens was cited as an example of the “all conquering female,” but she’s not a good example of what Bishop Barron is thinking about. It’s true that Rey is often mistaken for a Mary Sue because of how she was able to use the Force so easily. However, it’s shown throughout the movie that she has her own challenges and weaknesses to overcome. She fights toe-to-toe with Kylo Ren and also has to overcome her fears of abandoning her life in Jakku to become a Jedi. The male characters in The Force Awakens stand on equal ground with Rey. Finn especially is considered a deuteragonist because the movie focuses just as much on his character growth as it does Rey’s.

I think Bishop Robert Barron is trying to advocate for better role models for men in the movies and TV shows we watch. I think that the potential for good role models expands beyond Sully and Deepwater Horizon. Captain America, while not perfect, is a role model for any man because he’s willing to do anything for the ones that he loves.  The Flash has a few good male role models as well, including three characters who are fathers: Joe West, Henry Allen, and Harrison Wells from Earth 2. Barry Allen is also a good role model for young men because while he makes his share of mistakes, he does his best to learn from them in order to become a better person.

While I agree that women have been portrayed as weak in the past, the task of trying to make women strong and independent have led to a whole new kind of female stereotype: The Broken Bird. To quote the Nostalgia Critic:

“Women in the media for so long were always the emotional support, the damsels, the smiling pretty faces, so in the 90’s, there was a desperate need to change that. Oh, not by making them unpretty, we wouldn’t do that, but we suddenly made them cold, bitter, confrontational, and overly strong, to go out of their way to show that they’re not those old emotional stereotypes, and instead make way for new emotional stereotypes. For you see, in every 90’s film, the woman behind this strong independent wall that won’t let everybody in,  is a sad little bunny rabbit that will eventually let down her defences and reveal a tragic backstory. So you see, she wasn’t a strong, confident worker just because she was a strong, confident worker. Deep down she just wants to be held like any other fragile woman. Oh, I don’t want to think! I just want to be loved!”

In other words, the “strong, independent woman” in a lot of movies and TV still needs all her problems solved by having a man in her life. To quote my friend Mary: “Closed off? Man will open you up. Insecure? Man will make you feel better. Lonely? Man got you covered.”

There’s one example in my life of a wonderful, strong, female heroine that doesn’t sacrifice her femininity in order to be badass. And the men in her life aren’t made weaker in order for her to be stronger. Ironically, she was created by someone who loved the atheist philosophers Sartre and Nietzsche.

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I can’t imagine my life without Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The overall theme of the show is dealing with things that come with growing up and becoming an adult. While Buffy, may appear to be a good example of what Bishop Robert Barron is talking about, she is actually a great example of a well written strong female character. She is strong, but she has her moments of vulnerability. She defeats evil on a weekly basis, but she also has friends and family that she loves unconditionally. She’s a force for good, but she also makes some mistakes that she has to learn from. And no male character is made weaker so that she can be stronger. All of Buffy’s male enemies were formidable opponents. Giles, Buffy’s mentor and father figure, contributed his intellect and wisdom. Xander, in spite of his flaws, was a young man with a good heart and has saved the day a couple times. And Spike goes through a lot of changes that kept his character interesting and complex without sacrificing his own strength and charisma.

I think that strong, female characters can be created without the women needing a man or without a man becoming weak at her expense. Men and women, fictional or nonfictional, need to be treated as equals. To quote my friend Jillian:

Male characters, particularly father types, shoud not be dumbed down to make way for “strong independent female”? But should female characters be written to be the worst qualities of men in order to be strong/independent (unless it’s some kind of well fleshed out redemption arc)? Heck no. Is it possible to have a realistic strong female character alongside a realistic non-dumbed-down male character? Yes, and there are a plethora of examples. Should we stop fighting for fair treatment of and well written female characters in movies/comics/tv because some male characters are written poorly? No, because the former does not cause the latter.

Tl;dr: Strong female characters are not the cause of the bumbling dad/emasculated male character.