Expectations (for the new Justice League.)

I’ve finally seen a trailer for the Justice League movie, and I am still skeptical at best. It’s be hard to beat the show.

The key to superheroes as a tool in the creative world, is, as my sister and I have narrowed down, to put a person in a normal human situation, magnified by super abilities and super villains and over the top circumstances.

All this makes it clearer to the audience what the stakes are, what the choice is, and what the difference between the good and the evil character is.

So what I think the new film needs is not to progress further into the dark, gritty and melodramatic world that the genre has become, but to regress into more human terms.

I have nothing against climatic events and galaxy sized stakes, but it should never be about that. Making the problem with the world the main focus of any movie risks making it too vague. What the film needs to be about is what problems humans deal with on a human level. With something like the Justice League, there’s a wide range of subjects that could be covered, that’s why it worked so well as a show. Narrowing down each member’s own personal struggles in the span of one film is a difficult and almost impossible task

But my concern is that none of them will be followed through in a satisfying way.

Many super movies (and other movies and also modern literature) end with what I call a question. Ending with a question means the narrative of the film (usually the unspoken one) does not completely side with any perspective presented in it. It may lean one way, but it refuses to admit it. Leaving you, the audience, to try to figure it out by debate.

Sometimes that is okay. But I have never liked it.

I know many people are totally fine with movies ending with a question. They think it’s more respectful and more thought provoking that it does so. They think they will discuss it more and understand better because of it.

There may be times that happens, but I have yet to see that actually be the fruit of Question Films.

What I typically see is that people will take whichever side of the argument they were already on walking into the film (or reading the book) and continue to use the piece in question to defend their point of view. They claim to be getting a better understanding of it, but all they really are doing is getting deeper into their own beliefs. The film did not challenge them by presenting any belief as wrong based on evidence or results, it just fed into the desire they had to remain perfectly secure in what they already thought.

Take Zootopia, I liked that film okay, not because I agree with its supposed portrayal of society, but because I thought the characters still exhibited real world flaws that could apply to a lot more than racism or class bigotry. Judy being guilty of the crime she hated is a thing that happens to all of us at some point, and she handled it the right way.

However, I do not think it is pushing us forward if you take it only as a class and racial  (or a have and have nots) commentary because all the people that already believe that just nodded along with the film, it presented no new information or ideas to them. The people who didn’t agree either disliked the film or got a different message from it, like me.

The fact is, Zootopia was too vague to really be an effective eye opener to anyone. There are no cold hard facts in it.

The shift in super hero movies since the Avengers and Captain America franchise started is that they go from being about personal struggles to being about world wide threats. Which is not bad exactly, but in a way it renders the drama both too real for people to want to dwell on, and not real enough. Because we know similar organizations exist or have existed, and that this is just a more dramatized version of it, making it less serious and not more.

People always complain about characters not being relatable. But I think the real reason is not the struggles of the character are less terrible, but that the characters themselves are less moral.

I could relate to any character who is struggling with the right and wrong thing to do, especially if the choice is not really obvious (and I don’t mean that it’s morally ambiguous, but that it is a difficult choice to make for them because of the circumstances,) the reason is that the moral struggle is one we all go through. We are all equal under that struggle and no one is exempt from it.

Films that confuse that struggle are not being honest with us. In real life, we almost always have at least a dim idea of what the right choice is. What would be best for us to do, what we should do, and often what we know we won’t do but wish we would. In real life, we can repent of our mistakes and actually turn away from making them before we destroy our lives.

Like the Black Panther did, frankly, that was probably my favorite moment of Age of Ultron.

In real life, villains are often afraid of heroes because heroes are stronger than them in that one dangerous way: in their heart.

It’s the Dark Side in Star Wars that must be threatened by the Light. Why does the Emperor decide to kill Luke after he refuses to be corrupted? He fears and hates him for being stronger than himself.

So, to wrap all this up, the more dark these films become the more impossible to please the fans will be. Once people start to hunger for drama and gore and unbelievable violence, it will only grow. It’s happened many times. By pandering to this wish, Hollywood is dooming itself.

And it is only by being a little less picky about our special affects, our complex characters, and our high stakes; and a little more concerned with what affect our entertainment is actually having on us, that we will learn to really enjoy it.

That’s my thought anyway. I’d forgive the new Justice League for a lot if Batman would just take a knee at some point and deeply regret his actions in the previous film(s.) (I’d forgive even more if Wonder Woman straight up tells him what he did was reprehensible and doesn’t want to join the league till she’s convinced he’s really changed.)

As unlikely as I find both those things, I still hope that there’s someone on the writing team whos till knows how to use the genre.

Anyway, there’s still Infinity Wars coming.

Until next time–Natasha.

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Circle of Life.

Lyrics of African lyrics:

Here comes a lion father

oh yes it’s a lion

we’re going to conquer

a lion and tiger come to this open place.

 

From the day we arrive on the planet

and blinking step into the sun

There’s more to see than can ever be seen, ‘

more to do than could ever be done

there’s far too much to take in here

much more to find than cane very be found

but the sun rolling high 

in the sapphire sky

keeps great and small on the endless round

It’s the circle of life

and it moves us all

through despair and hope

through faith and love

till we find our place

on the path unwinding

It’s the circle, 

the circle of life.

Anyone else get chills when they hear this English part? I used to love this intro.

It’s just so great. I always though it captured the feeling of being in Africa and being one of the animals in the film.

Something about it. IT just suggests wisdom and steadiness with life.

Well, I doubt it surprises anyone that I like the Lion King. Who doesn’t?

Though to be honest, Simba was never my favorite part of it. I like Mufasa, and Nala, and kind of Timon and Pumba.

Well, everyone loves Mufasa.

And I also hated Scar, which most people don’t seem to. Though at the last you almsot feel sorry for him…almost.

Actually to my mind the whole scene where he hyenas kill him while the fire starts burning them is one of the creepiest Disney deaths ever. But poetically just.

Anyway, why one earth would I make this song the subject of a post?

Well, I always thought this song was embodying some tribal philosophy. Don’t take that the wrong way, it just seems like Disney selected an African culture to base the film off of. (Plus Hamlet.)

Now, maybe it is, but if so, now that I know the lyrics, I’m not convinced that philosophy is so bad.

Again, this song just has a rich tone. That’s what really makes it work. The lyrics aren’t spectacular, until you combine them with those awesome vocals and background music.

Then you get something that basically makes you feel like you’re on the African Savannah watching life happen.

The best things about the animation for this film as that everything in it seems royal. It just spells it out for you. Every beast is portrayed majestically and proud, except for the hyenas and Timon and Pumba. But especially in this opening number, you really feel like you’re that young giraffe we see, or Simba himself. Seeing all this for the first time, and being overawed by it all.

You feel the wonder of being young and new to the world.

And that is a good feeling to have. Especially to us older and often more cynical folks.

also I could feel a sort of appreciation all the beasts have for their world.

And that’s another factor of this film, it’s very simple. The circle of life is easy to explain. You are born, you die. Lions eat antelope; but antelope eat grass, which grows from dirt which the lions turn into after dying. The sun moves over the Savannah and provides light to all the animals, enabling the circle to continue.

It gets even more interesting if you start looking further in the the symbolism in the film. It’s no accident that we see a birth, a death, a coming of age, another death, and finally another birth; all in the course of the story. (nor that we see similar things int he sequel. If you’ve watched that.) It’s a circle.

Now I am not one of those who thinks that thinks just progress in a certain way because of some abstract Mother Nature, or some pattern that just proceeds because it has to. OF course I think God established the rhythm of the world. (It has since been tweaked a lot, and not for the better.)

But because I believe that, I don’t find the circle of life idea offensive. I think it’s very true that things proceed in a circular pattern. This has been pointed out in “The Fourth Turning.”

The reason it simple enough. Human nature doesn’t change, and Nature itself has to operate the way it is designed to. So you have events always repeating themselves, though never exactly in the same way.

Mufasa and Simba are not the same. But they have to take the same role in life.

But it should not be lost on the audience that the movie, though showing deatht o be a real and important thing, supports life as the goal and proper state of the world. Showing how Simba restores life and order to his kingdom.

The whole thing with the Sun even in the song lyrics is pointing to life and health and prosperity.

Also, in true Disney fashion (and much like Frozen) the song is foreshadowing the movie’s events.

Through despair and hope, through faith and love, till we find our place, int he path unwinding.

TO be honest, I neer understood those lines, I fully expected the last part to be “to fulfill our dream” or something like that.

It so would be now.

Simba goes through despair, and then hope, he finds faith and then love. Then he finds his place. (The path unwinding part comes more into the sequel.) The landscape of the film mirrors his journey. From the dry canyon and the thorny bramble, to the lush and lazy jungle, back to his home, and ultimately we see that home restored to it’s lush state also.

The beasts and other lions also experience despair at losing their king, then hope when Simba returns, they put their faith in him, and in the end things are right again.

Symbolically, we hear the song again at the close of the film. (You remember that thunderclap sound that  everyone got pumped up after hearing?)

Things come full circle.

That was subtlety, back in the day.

There is so much to unpack from this film, but that’ all I can fit into this post. Until next time–Natasha.

For King and Country–2

In my previous post I explored the knee bending issue, but I wanted to get into the actually reason for the title of these two posts.

I recently heard a pastor point out that whether you like the President or not, you should respect him. And I was surprised, not for any lack of agreement, but because I don’t seem to recollect hearing that preached on before, even for a brief moment. (Though I have read the idea at least.)

Do you know what happened when Hitler took over the Youth of Germany? The system began teaching them disrespect for the old and weak, (and anyone not a German.)

It was horrifying in cultures where respect for elders was a given principle of life, but I believe every tyranny of that sorts starts out by teaching the youth to despise certain things.

In China it was the Rich, the wealthy, the overlords. Anyone who had any valuables.

Those of us who aren’t in the Country and who see value in these things, are dumbfounded that people could ever be convinced they were worthless. But it’s brainwashing. They weren’t allowed to question it.

You can guess where I’m going with this, I think many people who influence this country are now trying to bias it against the morals that would make it harder for them to take over.

Once upon a time, in a land not far away, Slander and Libel, (See. J. Jonah Jameson for the difference between the two,) were considered low things to commit. Everyone knew of course that people did it, but those people were looked down upon as being willing to say anything for a sensation.

Now, that goes without saying.

Now the thing that we are all supposed to forget about is Respect.

Respect for leaders, for authority, for law and order.

Think about it, there is no such thing as respect for any of those things in most of the Media now. In many parts of the country, people disregard the value of those institutions.

It might seem that the leaders of this country have more to lose than gain if all the youth in it have zero respect for the leader themselves, but that’s where their plan becomes diabolical.

In addition to not giving anyone respect whom we don’t personally like, we are taught to blindly listen to anyone who echoes our own beliefs, the opinion we want to have supported, and who appeals to our personal taste.

It doesn’t matter how immoral they are, we like what they do.

To youths of this country, Older People may seem prudish when they don’t like the things they watch or listen to (or even when they do like them) but the fact is, some of them at least have their reasons.

Some of our parents and especially Grandparents can just remember a time when people were not revered if they behaved in the ways celebrities often behave now. They were not defended by any decent folks.

They can remember a time when not all sin under the sun was glorified or laughed at.

I wish I remembered a time like that.

To get back to the main point, The President should be respected.

There will probably be those who wonder if I respected Obama.

The answer is, as a man, no. I had no respect for him, his intelligence, or his ideals. I couldn’t.

As a leader, I was never happy with him, but I would not say things like what I hear being said now.

We are allowed the right to criticize the president, by the Constitution. But not to make death threats against him (or anyone) and his family; to slander him without a cause, or to lie about him.

To show videos of him that can be interpreted many ways.

To call him the names that he has been called.

Now, though I considered what we do with our mouth to be vital, I’ll admit that we are given the right to say whatever we want. The Founders knew that plenty of folks would criticize the leaders, but the also wanted to have a balanced view of the population.

Not a one sided view that tries to shut up any voice that goes against it.

I don’t think they intended for us to be lied to constantly as a whole.

I also don’t think they intended to ever suggest that leaders do not deserve respect; but even if they did not address the issue, the Bible does.

That might not matter to some, but there are plenty of Christians saying the same things as the secular world view sources.

Pure hostility is dishonorable, and it never changed a nation. Except to turn it against the very people who would have preserved it.

The German youth turned against those who would have told them that  love for your fellow man, and respect for the old are vital things if you would become wise and prosperous in a lasting way.

The Chinese turned against those who could have resisted the new government most effectually, and who could have kept some wealth among them.

We are turning against those who could have united us, and slowed down our path toward utter chaos and destruction.

Even now we could turn back, if we realized what we were doing. It’s why deception is so maddening to hear about and to see,  because the deceived believe themselves to be clear sighted.

But having said my say, I don’t intend to worry about it for long. My hope does not depend on the Government. I don’t feel grieved for my own fate as much as for the fate of millions who will never know what hit them.

One more thing, supposing that, in a future time, I come to think our president is not what I had hoped him to be.

Even so, and even though Obama was exactly what many feared him to be, my respect for him should not waver when it comes to the public. Whatever  I think in private, my public opinion should be put in such terms as will not disrespect, however much they may offend, the president and his supporters.

You can be honest, and not hostile. Blunt, and not cruel.

That’s my perspective–Until next time, Natasha.

Bittersweet.

I have made no secret of the fact that while I’m a Disney Fan, I don’t like everything they do, as some fans. But there’s a saving grace. Even in my least favorite Disney Princess film, there was one song.

Ironically, it’s the one with the same title as the movie. “Beauty and The Beast.”

For some reason, this song was just more palatable to me than the film itself. It basically sums up what the film’s message is, which isn’t such a bad one. But I could never swallow it in that format.

However, in song form, I actually really like it. If you haven’t heard the song a million times by now, I’ll sum it up for you:

The song is about how what’s happening is a tale as old as time, certain as the sun rising from the east.

In other words, what we’re seeing is something that’s happened before and is certain to happen again. That’s important to remember.

The song also describes the two people as both scared, and neither prepared for what’s taking place.

Young love right? Well, sort of.

But the parts that I actually think are unusual are as follows:

Barely even friends, then somebody bends, unexpectedly…

Bitter sweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong.

I really had to pause when I finally knew what the lyrics were. (It took years before I did.)

Perhaps it doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary to my readers, but personally, I rarely hear this sort of message in children’s films anymore. even Disney ones are losing it, though Frozen does stand out as a recent example to the contrary.

What’s unusual about that one lyric “Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong” is the Bittersweet part.

We could all name a bunch of stories, both real and fictional, in which someone is aghast when they realize they are wrong, and they feel guilty.

But the nice thing here is that the song admits there is sometimes a phenomenon, strange as it is, in which it is partially a relief to find out you were wrong.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be right. Being wrong tends to scare me. It may be one of my worst weaknesses. Yet even I can at least imagine how being wrong about something could be a pleasant thing.

It’s bitter because no one with any honesty can say change of that sort isn’t painful and difficult, even while it’s rewarding.

To refer back to Frozen for a moment, I have said before that that movie admits that we are messed up and need to change, but it does so in such a way that we can feel the utter relief of both our main characters at the end when they realize they both can change, and want to change, and have changed.

If I may so, this also appears in Brave, when Merida and her Mother realize that they needed to change their attitudes toward each other and do so without realizing it.

Did you know that the name of the Beast in Prince form is Adam?

Call me crazy, but I think that it was not a mere chance. Beauty and the Beast mirrors the Garden of Eden story in several ways. The forbidden plant that both of them handle poorly; The prince rejecting it, Belle nearly touching it after being warned to stay away from the West Wing. Then Belle reenacts leaving the garden by running away, just as the Prince reenacts becoming cursed by sin to become something he is not supposed to be.

In the original tale, Beauty is more of a Christ figure in taking her father’s place to pay his debt, but the movie focused less on that part than on her own mistakes.

But where the movie and book both detour from the Fall story is that they skip ahead to the redemption part of it. Where both the main characters learn to love instead of fear, and to forgive, and to admit they were wrong, and eventually death itself is turned backwards.

I’m not theorizing that this is a Christian film in secret by any means (the remake really destroys that idea) but inadvertently, it has the Christian message woven into it. In a gentler form than some other movies, in that the key to the whole thing ends up being two people changing each other.

By the way, everyone always makes fun of the fact that Belle is a classic example of a woman thinking she can change an ogreish man. But in the book, and movie to an extent, it’s the Beast who changes her perspective.

I’d have liked Belle a lot more if she started the movie with more misconceptions about outward appearance that eventually got overturned, instead of being all perfect yet still strangely annoying.

To be honest, I think the reason I can’t stand her is because she spends her whole first number complaining about the people around her instead of proactively trying to befriend them and see the best in them, and treat them like actual people.

Hmm… just like she does with the Beast, at first.

But oddly enough she doesn’t really learn her lesson because she goes back to the town and is no better to anyone.

Well, I’ve already complained about this film enough to make plenty of folks mad as it is.

Anyway, so to conclude, changing is a thing to be celebrated. I thank God I am not the same person I was five years ago. (Five years exactly as of this month.)

I’ll say this: Most people are secretly frustrated not by the fact that others don’t change, but by the fact that they believe they themselves cannot.

That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

How to have a super relationship-3

Part three here we come:

So, I covered the foundation, the way they handle each other’s values, and disagreements. I didn’t exhaust any one of these subjects by any means, but I touched on them.

Now we come to the worst part: Fighting.

Fights are not the same as disagreements. Disagreements can be unemotional, but fights, for the purpose of this post, will be classified as the times we actually hurt each other deeply.

Barda and Scott have only one real fight on record, as I mentioned in the previous post. From what I understand, they split after Barda complains that Scott is ignoring her needs because he is so caught up in what he does, even when it’s a good thing, that her feelings are put on the back burner.

At first I discredited this. How could someone so unselfish as Barda complain about this?

But then I realized, with a little help from my sister, that it is actually a pretty rational fight to expect of them.

Barda and Scott both have traumatic backgrounds in which they were never taught that they deserve any love. (Note the word deserve.) Both of them believed that for a long time.

For the first few years of their marriage, I’d venture to say, they didn’t have a problem because both of them believe the other to be worthy of love and preference more than themselves, they would pour into each other so much that they would never stop to ask if they deserved more.

But… I could easily see Scott, who is always the absent minded professor type at the best of times, getting caught up in helping other people. (I think maybe it was even with the Justice League) and thinking that his wife would be fine. She’d never made demands on him before. (How many men get caught in this trap?)

Meanwhile, Barda suddenly finds he’s not home, or not paying her much attention when he is, and since she has few other interests to occupy her time, she starts to resent that.

You can imagine the rest as easily as I can.

So they separate for awhile though I don’t think they ever think of divorce. There’s no two people more suited for each other. They could never find anyone else just like the other person.

I imagine they reunited after both realizing that they are better off with each other if only for a few minutes a day, than apart forever.

AS far as I know, they have no further problems beyond small disagreements that are bound to happen and are forgotten the next day.

The important thing about this story is to ask what changed? You probably got my hint. They started thinking about what they deserved. In other words, Pride.

Normally you would not find more humble people that Scott and Barda. They are willing to give everyone a fair chance, to take in people they know have emoitonal issues and try to help them, and to bear with each other’s own weaknesses.

Barda is convinced Scott is the better person, but I think he considers her to be the most loyal of the two.

So what could have caused them to change? Simple, they came to expect one thing, and when they didn’t have it, they felt threatened and started to demand it.

I have a feeling Scott was probably surprised when his beloved bride started resenting wheat she’d always supported in the past.

There’s another issue too, Barda started trying to be a regular housewife before that time. She’s not so unsuited to it, but to someone like her, staying at home keeping house has to sting when her husband is out doing what she used to do all the time.

No one’s making her stay at home, she put limits on herself.

That’s where we find trouble so often. We decided how far we can go and no further, then we blame our spouse or our other family for our unhappiness.

Bard and Scott work it out in the end because they have true love and common sense on their side. But our other couple suffers from almost the same problem.

Wonder Woman is a Princess, as Batman points out to her, and he is a rich kid with many issues. Though his excuse is lame, his point is not necessarily without merit.

These two are not ready for emoitonal intimacy.

I think the ladies will all agree with me when I say Wonder Woman would be in for some shocks if she were to get close to any man, let alone Batman.

She’s from an all female island, and she has guy friends, but she doesn’t really get why men are they way they are sometimes she complains about it.

I relate becuase I am typically surrounded by women myself and I don’t claim to really get men. I know that’s an obstacle I have to overcome, but she is in blissfu lignorance of that fact.

Batman onthe other hand is the DArk Knight for a reason. He has his allegiance (Gotham) and he prowls around on his metal steed looking for anyone in distress.

I want you to try to picture these two sharing their turf.

If you can’t laugh at that, you’ve probably never watched either of t hem in action.

Oh my gosh, what a nightmare. Batman’s worst nightmare in fact.

I think men often overlook this when they get married or get into a serious dating relationship. Women want to be a part of your whole life. They want to feel like you value their company in whatever you do.

Men tend to want to separate their lives into categories. Work. Batmanning it. Home.

I will not say either is entirely wrong. Standing alone is necessary, so is getting help.

Batman would probably feel like his criminals and his city are his personal property, and the guys in the League, or the other girls, would never dream of swinging around Gotham without his consent (like Batgirl.) But Wonder Woman would naturally expect to be able to help him out.

I know that was speculation, but there was plenty of evidence for it on the show. Often Batman will hold her back from interfering in a situation where he feels like it’s someone’s personal call. He also did it with Robin on the Animated Batman Show. Batman believe you’ve got to stand on your own sometimes, and that makes perfect sense.

Diana probably never fought a single battle without a whole crowd watching, ready to step in if something went totally wrong. She might understand giving someone breathing room, but utterly leaving them to themselves, she’d probably find that a bit hard. Though she’s been known to take on problems single handedly, she tends to do that from a belief that she is totally over-capable of beating them.

Scott and Barda had perfect teamwork because they never made any bones about dong things together, unless there was a good reason to split, then they allowed it without making a fuss. The one exception being what I mentioned above.

Pride. It gets us every time. If there’s one thing Batman and Wonder Woman both have in abundance, it’s pride.

This may have made it sound like I don’t ship these two at all, or like I expect people to e perfect. But I don’t. I’ll get to that in part for.

Au revoir–Natasha.

Stranger than fiction.

Stranger than fiction.

It’s the title of a movie, I’ll bet there’s probably a book called that too. It’s also an old saying “Real life is stranger than fiction.”

You know what’s funny to me? How demanding we are now about our entertainment. There are still folks who aren’t picky. But especially among millennials and younger, we’ve got a lot of critics who want to find their fiction believable.

I’m guilty of this too, and hey, it’s not exactly wrong. I’m all for having standards. It’s not that that bothers me.

It’s that these standards are often ridiculous.

Fiction creators are held up to almost impossible standards. Everything that happens in their imaginary world needs to line up with everything else. They get criticized if there’s a detour into a subject unrelated to the main plot, even though if all of a story is just about one main plot, it can be flat and lacking in depth. If their characters aren’t funny or really emotional, than they’re flat. (It couldn’t just be that not everyone has to be either really funny or really volatile. Or stoic.)

They get accused of making characters stereotypical or cliche, but are also expected to play into certain stereotypes like “strong female character” or “doubtful hero,” or “compelling villain.”

We put a lot on these poor folks who just want to tell us an interesting story. Some of the most beloved stories of all time don’t make sense, that’s part of their charm.

And we’d be wise to take a look at why that is, and learn from it.

Take “Alice in Wonderland” for example. If you are western European, you have heard of this story. It used to be the number one required children’s book in England. It may still be. (Google it someone.) This story is famously nonsensical. But I like how Jim Weiss described such nonsense. “It makes sense, but in it’s own whimsical way.”

Alice runs into a lot of silliness, but mixed in with all that are some important lessons in humor error and in logic and the value of certain things. IT also turns a lot of the phrase we use on our own heads, and so teaches us that words ae important. In fact books like the Alice books, and the Phantom Tollbooth, and Mary Poppins, all foster a love of words in the reader. I sound like the prolouge to a classic by an editor, but it’s true nonetheless.

But what I find most important of all about these books is that they challenge the persepctive on life that even children may take too seriously. Alice i a know-it-all, Milo
(Tollbooth) is bored and finds nothing around him to be worthwhile, and Jane and Michael tend to be close minded about new things. The whimsical things that happen to all of those children teach them to enjoy life more and see wonder in things that they never paid attention to. The Narnia books do the same thing in a more gentle and subtle way.

And it’s good for all of us to have to stretch our minds to see things a different way. To understand that there may be different rules than the ones we know, or that we may just only know part of the story.

Okay, so what do my two subjects have to do with each other? I’m getting to that.

We have two choices in life, ladies in gentlemen, and all our important decisions will fall into one of these categories. Good and Bad.

But good doesn’t just mean moral, it means good for you.

And our attitude toward fiction is way more important to our well being than we give it credit for.

We can either demand that we understand every little thing, in every single part, after just one time with a story. Or, we can let it sink in a little deeper, and move us; or puzzle us and thereby cause us to think and hopefully to grow.

See, all this criticism and nitpicking, it’s our way of trying to protect ourselves. Not even from bad ideas, but just from liking things that it would somehow reflect badly on us to like. We don’t want to be fooled again.

There is some wisdom in that, but we have carried it way too far as a culture. It’s really just used to keep us from ever being challenged in the way we look at things. Because as long as we can pick something to pieces, we don’t have to admit it has a point. And as long as we can assign whatever meaning we want to it (whether it be less or more than the creator intended) then we don’t have to ask ourselves what the actual meaning was.

If we can explain it, then it can’t hurt us.

That’s what we think.

But if everything must be explained, then I’ll be the first to say fiction is fiction indeed.

Nothing in fiction is more unreal than when it all makes sense. Because if you haven’t noticed, real life does not make sense.

In real life, things happen for a reason, but it’s not always a reason we know. Or like. In real life phenomenons take place that we can’t understand or explain. In real life, outcomes are not always predictable. Most of all, in real life things cannot be dismissed just because we disagree with them or find fault with them. We actually have to work out problems in real life.

That’s why I take fiction seriously. Because it ought to be helping us deal with real life, since fiction is actually far simpler.

So demanding it be perfect is demanding something you are never going to see in this life. And demanding it be compelling is pointless. Because most fiction can’t force you to be compelled, you have to choose whether to care or not. And it’s no big surprise that those who don’t care about fictional events on the basis that it’s boring will not care about real events in a deep way.

Life is most definitely stranger than fiction, and the best fiction reminds us of that fact so we can become more flexible.

Those are my thoughts for now, until next time–Natasha.

How to recognize a weasel.

I have finally watched the new “Beauty and the Beast.” I didn’t actually want to buy it or go see it in theaters but by a stroke of luck I got the opportunity to see it for free and judge if it was as bad as I thought.

It was exactly what I expected.

Now, I post unpopular opinions so often on this blog that I take it a lot of my readers must share them, but if you liked this movie, I can sort of see why.

The visuals were a lot better than the old one. The singing was better, I thought. I won’t say I didn’t feel a little moved by “Tale as old as time.” The only song of that film I’ve always liked. Nor was I too upset that “Human Again” was removed, which I never liked. (I never liked any of the other songs, for whatever reason. Just like I liked all the Lion King songs except the ever popular Hakuna Matata.)

I will say the Beast was pretty charming. /he seemd older as a beast, but it worked for him really well. I also never cared overmuch for him in the old one, so it was an imporvement.

But I will always say Emma Watson was the wrong choice for Belle, exspecially without revising Belle’s character at all. Gosh, I never could stand her anyway.

What is jusst killing is that I have a lot in commom with Belle, and yet I find her just so annoying.

That said, I was not unbiased going into this film. Nor was I unibased on the religious front. IF you know what I mean.

So it’s no surpirse I didn’t like it. I thought some moments were right, and I felt something, but other moments just took me down from the high.

Now to ge tinto my actual problems with it.

The film had a big Gay sticker stamped right across its forehead. I’ve watched lot sof films featuring gay characters simply because they seem to be  token character now. But not as many that were so clearly trying to make a statement. And to get into kids heads.

AM I exaggerating?

Well let’s explore that. When a movie has a man commenting on the proportions of another man in a creepy way, has a man dressed as a woman told to “be free,” has a freaking teapot tell a guy that he cold do better than Gaston…nope. Not exaggerating.

Can I just say that I’ve never approved of sex jokes and references in kid’s films even when they were limited to the hetero-sexual. I think kids just don’t need to hear that crud.

But it’s even worse when it’s done in this manner. Sly, sneaking; surreptitious.

This may sound weird, but I actually prefer bawdy jokes that are said in a bawdy way just because the people saying them at least are acknowledging that they’re inappropriate. But I don’t like this highly controversial subject treated as admirable and normal and romantic by a freaking remake of an old kid’s movie. Hasn’t anyone in the audience ever heard of propaganda?

Sorry, sorry, I’m getting a little carried away. I’m sure plenty of parents didn’t let their kids watch it. And I wouldn’t let my kids watch it. I was actually glad that my young cousin was out of the room for pretty much every bad moment of the movie.

It’s no secret that I’m not progressive in my views. I don’t excuse any of the film-writers who were for making this film because what they did was still wrong.

I think someone might ask me, would I mind if it had been a christian message? The truth is: it depends

Because Christian messages are mostly family friendly. Now if the christian message was about chastity or adultery or something, I would say no, don’t put that in a kids’ film, that’s sick.

And if you must promote gayness, promote it in a film that grown up people are going to watch, making their own choice.

I do have a problem with Christians bending the truth or using stereotypes to promote Christianity. I find it horrifying that anyone claiming to know the Truth would have to lie to get it across.

But the fact is, Christian movies are at least honest about being Christian. You know what you’re getting into when you watch one.

But then again, the director did warn us about the “nice gay moment.”

I’d like to address Lafou actually. As I’ve said, I hate the old Beauty and the Beast. And he was one of the worst parts of it. But not because he acted gay. he doesn’t.

Lafou’s name means fool, and that’s what he’d supposed to be. He’s enamored of Gaston’s popularity and strength and hangs around him because it makes him somehow cooler by associations…and it sort of works. He does get the whole town to join him in singing Gaston’s praises.

I mean, doesn’t anyone get what a kiss-up looks like anymore? That’s what Lafou is, he’s a brown nosing little weasel, who does whatever Gaston tells him to because he’s intimidated by him. We see Gaston threaten him during their first scene.

And everyone is singing about Gaston, so you’d have to convince me that every single married man in that town is gay before it proved anything. But why it should even be a cartoon character in a kid’s movie promoting homosexuality, I don’t know.

There is such a thing as guys admiring other guys for bad reasons. It’s called peer influence. It causes a lot of problems.

And frankly, I think turning that into something else takes away  he actual lesson we’re supposed to learn from those characters. Lafou and Gaston represent loser who judge by appearance. Lafou is the follower, Gaston is the self absorbed jerk. And by the way, Lafou does despicable things in the original without feeling a bit sorry for them, he’s just as rotten as Gaston, only less liked, because he’s not buff and handsome. Is this really so hard to understand?

Yet everywhere I look people are interpreting it as infatuation. Ugh.

This does make me mad because no one is going to remember the actual message of not hanging around people just because they’re popular and good looking.

And the impertinence of this movie, thumbing its nose at everyone who disagrees with its message. There was nothing respectful about the way it presented any of its themes. (I might add, it didn’t do such a good job of following up its other messages. It was too busy being progressive.)

Now, you didn’t hear me say that I hate gay people. I don’t. My complaint is against what this film and its writers are trying to do.

There are worse movies, but if this is the new road Disney is taking, I might have to jump off the train. But I have higher hopes for other movies coming out.

Until next time–Natasha.

What does the song say?

Today I want to talk to you all about respect.

A particular kind of respect.

First, however, I have a short anecdote to explain why I feel this is important.

A while ago I was stuck with a group of millennials who were listening to some pop music. I’m not against pop, but I am against pot, which I’m pretty sure got referenced once or twice. The real problem came when some songs featuring guys talking about getting…you know…with girls, came on. More than once a song that I considered highly inappropriate played.

I promise I was not listening by choice, I was stuck. With that clarification, I’m going to be kind of vulnerable with you all.

Deep breath: Those songs, sung by both girls and boys who were right by me, made me feel embarrassed.

It was humiliating as a woman to hear young men singing about that sort of thing with me right there.

I’m aware that guys will talk about it a lot to each other, but usually guys who will talk about it openly in front of girls are perceived as rather jerk-ish, to put it mildly.

These weren’t even bad kids I was hanging around. That was the worst of it, they were totally unaware that anything they were saying might bother someone. At least to the point of embarrassment.

That’s why I’m posting this, because in the moment, I couldn’t say how I felt properly, but now I think this is worth discussing.

I wish I didn’t have to explain but here goes:

Young men (and old) whether or not a girl shows it, she is going to notice how you treat her and other girls. How you talk about them; how you think about them. And she may not care, even if she should. That’s because a lot of girls are treated like crud by the other men in their lives and there’s nothing you could do to fail her worse than that, so she may think you’re okay.

But that doesn’t make it okay.

You may be a great guy, but if you even so much as joke about certain things, it will send a certain message. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

It’s not my place to tell men or boys what to do, but they should know that any healthy girl will have standards to measure by, and no girl wants a guy to take her purity lightly.

Please don’t think I’m overreacting. I fully understand that often teens just don’t think about songs or jokes as indicating their character, but they do.

I also understand there are probably some guys out there just as uncomfortable with this as I am. Good on ya, in that case.

Young women: Guys need you to have a problem with this. I know that sounds strange. But men cannot read our minds. If we act like we’re cool with the total crud these songs are singing about, and like it’s fine to hear the guys around us spew the same things out of their mouths, then the guys are going to think we are fine with it.

Simple as that.

I don’t like to have things said in my presence that imply I’m a slut; because unless I was, why would I be okay with hearing this?

That’s not overstating the case. The fact that we don’t know this as a generation is an indictment against the kind of morals we’ve been taught, but it is not an excuse.

I’m not thanked for saying things like this to people’s faces, I doubt they would thank me for writing it either, but nonetheless, it has to be said. And by more people than me.

We need to treat each other and ourselves with respect.

By the way, my complaint was written off as just my opinion. But I assure you, there are lots of people who share it. Unfortunately, none of them were present when I objected. But they are out there. Some of them will probably read this.

I don’t really know if I can change someone’s mind about the kind of stuff they listen to, but they at least need to know how it will sound.

And it doesn’t matter whether it bugs one girl, or a million, because it’s still wrong. It’s dishonoring to any girl to make her feel that she’d being reduced to a sex object. In song, in life, or in thought.

So just…don’t do it. If you have any real respect for girls.

And girls, we need to stand up for ourselves and stop making this an okay pastime. If more of us made an issue of it, it’d be less frequent.

But I don’t want to get too preachy, so I’ll end on that note.

Thanks for reading and until next time–Natasha.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron

I know this movie is old news now, but I saw it for the first time yesterday, SI I thought I’d give my thoughts on it.

I’ve made no secret of my general disinterest in the Avengers, but I like to keep moderately up to date on them. I guess I’m hoping I’ll finally see what everyone else sees in it.

I’ll list the positives first: The character interaction of this film felt way more authentic to me than it did in the first one. You can buy that these people have known each other for awhile now. Clint Barton’s family was a cool part, and how Natasha is basically like their aunt, that’s cool.

Also the action made a bit more sense this time around, it wasn’t as all over the place as the first one felt, at least to me.

Fury was barely in it, but he always makes the plot more confusing so that was actually a good thing. He was in it enough to provide a good element of inspiration.

Finally, Quick Silver was great. I expected to dislike him most of the time but I didn’t. (I did go into it know what happens to him at the end, so that made it easier.) I think he was the best part.

And as a side note, Captain America and the Hammer did look totally like he could have lifted it, I saw it move. And the look on Thor’s face was priceless.

But beyond that, I don’t think this movie held up to the original”s standard, and definitely not my own.

Nice action is great in a superhero flick, but for me it doesn’t make it or break it, so long as the scenes don’t look like a sixties Batman fight, I can tolerate less spectacular fight techniques. And a lot of cool powers isn’t enough to tip the scale either.

Banter gets old unless it’s really good, and cliches and subverted cliches can be equally annoying. (Just because you subverted the cliche doesn’t mean it was a better scene.)

No, what gets me is the heart of a film. It’s why the Incredibles and that Justice League movie about two earths are my favorite superhero films, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

What the heart of Age of Ultron is would be hard to say. Other than Ultron gets his heart ripped out, which was gruesome even if he’s a robot.

I think the heart of it was supposed to be putting the civilians first, and valuing human life instead of just victory over evil.

Did I miss the announcement when a superhero valuing human life ever became something they had to decide in the middle of the film? Uh…that used to be for villains who were finally starting to see the light.

Oh that’s right, superheroes apparently are villains, in a way. (Gag.)

Look, if I have to question the moral choices of my hero, then they aren’t my hero anymore. I can’t look up to someone who is morally inferior to me. That’s stupid.

But I get why it’s popular. So many people identify with this because they are unsure of what their moral standard should be.

A hero should be an inspiration, so why did most of the Avengers spend more time in the film depressing me than they did lifting me up?

If you want to make a morally ambiguous, or philosophically uncertain film, great, but don’t call that a hero film. Heroes are the people who stand up for what’s right, defend the defenseless, and don’t back down from the villain. They are not the people hanging back brooding over whether or not they have the right to even interfere. Yes, the right.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? The Avengers are being accused by Ultron of being the disease of the planet, and they wonder if he’s right.

Well, if he is, it started when they made him.

Up till then, only the Hulk was a threat to society, and he was getting better. If they movie had focused on how the power of love and trust can make people rise to new heights, that would have been a good message.

One many would call cliche and cheesy. But there’s a reason these messages keep being repeated time and again, in every generation. And guess what, the generations that reject them are the ones that crumble in on themselves.

See, the day good things become too boring for the population is the day the population becomes more interested in feeling things strongly then they do in feeling what’s right. It’s like the people who chase erotic love instead of lasting love. The first one is just more of a thrill.

And believe me, I get how these new movies are emotionally seductive, if I may use that term. The stakes are always high, and there are tense moments, and some touching ones that feel very real.

But to what does it all tend?

When I watched The Hunger Games I understood everyone’s fascination with them. I’ve heard snippets of Twilight, and I get why teens were sucked into the series. I get it. Folks, I am not immune to the appeal.

But the appeal is something I despise in myself. Even though it’s there, I know it’s not good.

As a human being, I am as tempted as anyone to sacrifice principal for something that will make me feel all keyed up and pumped, or make me hang on the edge of my seat, or make me sigh and feel all wish- washy. Hey, those aren’t bad feelings.

But pursuing something just to get those feels, that’s either a waste of time, or it’s downright dangerous.

I know this for a fact. I’ve read and watched stuff for all those reasons, that’s how I got addicted to it. And that wasn’t healthy.

Now, it;s become kind of a joke to say you’re addicted to something that people really think is harmless. But addiction is never, ever harmless.

It makes you unhappier in the long run, it can make you depressed. It can make you pull away from the people around you. And it can make you crazily obsessed over something to the point where you neglect real world things.

That’s not a joke. And no one should act like it is.

But most people are unwilling to pull away from their screens long enough to really tell whether or not they have a problem. that’s part of the problem.

As for the Avengers, this movie made them look seriously messed up. Natasha’s whole part just made me sad, but without any hope that she’ll get better. She’s not allowed to, where’d all the conflict come from then, it is the only character development she gets after all…

Yeah, so I didn’t like it. I thought Ultron sucked, not because he wasn’t creepy, but because he made no sense to me. None of it did. I wish they’d decide whether the infinity stones control people or people control them. They can’t make up their minds.

There’s more to be said on this, but it’ll have to wait. Until next time–Natasha.

The Guardians of the Galaxy.

I’m a little late to the party on this, but I thought I’d review Guardians of the Galaxy.

This will go on record as being the only modern Marvel movie I actually like. So far.

It’s also the only one I get at all emotional watching. The sad scenes are actually sad. And that killer scene at the end when they all have the stone, it’s the only Marvel end scene that actually makes me feel pumped.

I’m sure some people think there’s something wrong with me that the Avengers moviesare basically boring to me, but I never feel like anyone, least of all the heroes, is really stopping to take in the weight of what’s really happening.

The Avengers are really like soldiers in an army, no time to be emotional, or to have hesitations, or to need more time to figure things out, they just charge into every battle they can and kick rear end.

I’ve never like watching people beat each other up without any personal investment in the fight. In fact, sometimes I get mad at the hero for punching the villain when I feel the villain didn’t deserve it, or that there was more mature way to handle it.

I feel like the Avengers are often like kids who can’t solve anything except by slugging it out.

Obviously, the Guardians of The Galaxy are the same way, so what makes the difference?

First of all, the Guardians acknowledge the dysfunctional nature of their anger issues. It’s not pretty, but at least they realize it’s messed up, and slowly begin trying to control themselves. This is a nice change from it being no moral conflict at all as to whether you should beat the crud out of the person you’re angry with.

Secondly, no one expects any of the characters to be good when the movie starts out. And none of them are. But over the course of the movie they realize what’s at stake, and they realize that working along side each other might be bizarre but it feels right, and it’s nice to have friends; so they are motivated to protect each other as well as the innocent people.

Thirdly, the villain, instead of bringing out the worst in the team by manipulation that they’re too blind to see coming (Loki anyone?) ends up bringing out the best in them. Spurring Gamorra to finally stop being an assassin Quill to finally stop being a selfish jerk, Drax to be willing to help someone else and admit his rage just wasn’t enough to justify his actions; and Rocket and Groot to stick their necks out for someone else.

By the way, this is traditionally the role a villain is supposed to play. Heroes are usually created when ordinary people rise up to stop evil, not when evil draws them together to destroy them.

There’s more reasons to like this movie. I think the on-the-edge violence and questionable ethics of the heroes makes more sense in the Galaxy setting, because of course the justice would be less focused in some planets, and we’re dealing with criminals turning good, not good guys experiencing moral conflict. The guardians start out at the opposite end of the scale, so we like them better as they progress, instead of worse as they give into temptation.

The way they constantly bicker isn’t really funny to me most of the time, I feel more frustrated, like Quill does, then like I’m enjoying it. but that’s another good point, they have to stop the petty banter before they can really realize why they need to do what they need to do.

Another point, and by far one of the best points of the film, is when Rocket says, for the first time not really sarcastic or bitter “Quill, you’re asking us to die.” The timing here is perfect, because Peter says “Yeah I guess I am.” And turns away, because he realizes he can’t actually ask people to die for his 12% of a plan. This moment is what makes this movie seem real, because the stakes are high, but there’s a healthy respect for the lives of your friends, and how you don’t have the right to demand they risk them. That’s why it’s not as cheesy or cliche when Gamorra  stands up and says she’d be grateful to die among friends. No one really believes they’re going to win, but they’d rather die trying with people they care about than live by running away.

That’s what makes my absolute favorite part (battle-wise) so much more meaningful. when Quill grabs that stone, it’s not from the greed for power, he knows it’s going to kill him. The cool thing is, Gamorra knows it’s going to kill her too, so do Drax and Rocket; yet they still grab on, proving they meant what they said about being willing to die with friends.  And what a horrible death too, so it’s really brave of them all. I think for me it means the most when Rocket does it, because he just lost Groot, his first real friend, and might not have a reason to sacrifice himself for the rest of them whom he didn’t even seem to like, but he does anyway.

Then that moment when the stone suddenly stops killing them, it’s amazing.

We know it’s not just that they’re powerful, because the group of people that held it before was still destroyed, I’ve always thought that it was because when they held on, they were all one in heart. With the same motivations, the same drive, the same will; and that was stronger than Ronan’s insane wish to destroy all life.

And darn it if that doesn’t inspire me even when it’s between people whom I wouldn’t normally admire.

But I guess it’s because they find a moral rock to stick to, whereas a lot of other superheroes have been losing their grip. (Not like I’m pointing the finger here, Batman.)

Actually in a wired way, the Guardians remind me of some other superheros, but that’s for another post.

Until next time–Natasha.