Why Destiny Matters and The Tick Oct04

Why Destiny Matters and The Tick...

The Tick doesn’t do a lot of thinking. He’s not a smart guy; but he knows evil when he sees it, and he’ll spring into action because he knows that fighting evil is his destiny. The Tick’s origin is something of a mystery; he has no idea where he came from and knows very little about himself. The only thing he’s certain of is his destiny, and it drives everything that he does. The rest of the rational world spends their time asking the question “Who am I?” as they search for meaning. Not The Tick. He’s defined entirely by his drive to conquer evil, and as far as he’s concerned, this destiny has no connection to his past, and requires no other pertinent details—only that he should embrace what he was made for and live it out every day. So, what is this force he calls destiny? If you ask him, he’ll tell you, “Destiny’s powerful hand has made the bed of my future, and it’s up to me to lie in it. I am destined to be a superhero. To right wrongs, and to pound two-fisted justice into the hearts of evildoers everywhere. And you don’t fight destiny. No sir. And, you don’t eat crackers in the bed of your future, or you get all… scratchy.” Again, The Tick’s no genius, but he gives good advice—you should never eat crackers in bed. It’s folly. And you don’t fight destiny… unless, of course, you enjoy being sad and unfulfilled. Like The Tick, it’s up to me to live out what’s in my heart, or not. I’m not a puppet. As a Catholic Christian, I too, have a sense of destiny. I believe that I was made by God for some very specific things—some...

Living in the Fire Nation Aug09

Living in the Fire Nation...

Imagine that you lived in a world where all nations got along. Then, your nation suddenly attacked the rest of the nations, attempting world domination. According to the opening of Avatar: The Last Airbender, that was what happened in their world. The Air, Water, Earth and Fire Nations lived in harmony, “then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.” Now, a world that didn’t know strife was in need of a saviour—an Avatar, a master of all four elements. It takes a special kind of person to think that world domination is a good idea; and I don’t mean special in a good way. It’s an expensive proposition—it costs lives, money, comfort, safety, and identity. More importantly, it costs your soul. Because, if you are so full of hubris that you believe your way is the only right way, that you are so much better than everyone else, that you should rule all, that other people’s rights and dignities are negotiable according to what suits you… if you have placed yourself in the position to judge others, then you have set yourself up as God and that’s always a losing proposition. We are emperors of our own little worlds, oppressing others not by force, but by indifference. When Firelord Ozai gathered up an army and sent them to take over the world, there must have been some confusion among the people. I have often wondered how the average citizen in such a regime would feel about what was being done in their name. What did the average Roman feel during the rise of the Empire, or the Canadian and American settlers as indigenous people were being relocated or wiped out? Did they believe the Manifest Destiny (or whatever that particular group called it) rhetoric,...

Battlestar Galactica and the Virtue of Waiting Jun26

Battlestar Galactica and the Virtue of Waiting...

Breaking News! The original Battlestar Galactica series is going to be on a local TV station near me this summer! Whoop-dee-do, you say? It’s been on Netflix for years, you say? Well, pardon me, but I’m somewhat elderly (42!) and don’t remember things like Netflix when I’m wishing to see my old TV shows. I still “tape” the shows I want to watch on my DVR. As much as I try to live in the brave new world of technology—with some small successes—my brain is wired for the 1980s. So, when I heard that BSG was going to be on, I was very excited. I bought the theme song on iTunes and have been listening to it frequently in my hype. There are three main reasons that this is excellent news: 1) Dirk Benedict, 2) the fabulous theme song, and 3) now the kids today will see what Cylons are supposed to look like—stocky, chrome dudes with Knight Rider helmets that speak a robotic, “By your command.” They aren’t skinny blondes in slinky, red dresses, or your best friend, or you and you don’t know it! In the 80s, we knew who our enemies were; and they were stocky, evil robots. “Binge watching” wasn’t a thing during my childhood. You had to wait, probably a week at a time, to see a show you wanted. And if you missed it? Too bad. You’d have to wait until it was in syndication—if it ever even made it! And, if seasons ended on a “to be continued” cliffhanger, may God have mercy on your soul! You could bust a gut waiting for that next episode! My husband was grounded when the first episode aired, and I don’t mind telling you that I have listened to that...

The Mothers Grimm May26

The Mothers Grimm

I have heard it said many times that, until you become a mother, you can’t imagine the love that you are capable of for your child. Sure, you love your spouse a ton—obviously enough to decide to spend the rest of your lives together, but the love a mother has for her child is fierce. Fierce because of the intensity, fierce because it changes who you are and the way you experience the world, and fierce because you would do anything to protect that little thing even if you had to face the very gates of hell to do it. And speaking of the very gates of hell… the TV series, Grimm, just had its finale a few weeks ago. True to what the name suggests, the show’s faerie tales are dark, gruesome, and highly entertaining. The premise of Grimm is that the creatures from the faerie stories we all love are real—and they live among us. We’re talking werewolves, talking foxes, mice, lizard creatures, the Krampus—all manner of “monsters.” They’re called Wesen. Most of the time, they look like us, but when they become frightened, or angry, or want to be in their natural element they “woge,” and take on their animalistic appearance. The Grimm family has, for centuries, been hunting, killing and recording the stories of these creatures. From the moment pregnancy takes hold, our bodies become something of a living sacrifice. The finale revolves around a Portland police detective named Nick Burkhardt and he only discovered that he was a Grimm in his adulthood. It had been hidden from him for his own protection. Unlike many others, Nick’s more open to judging Wesen by their actions rather than by their genetics. He befriends several Wesen, and seeks justice for and protects good ones....

Adulting After Narnia Apr03

Adulting After Narnia...

When I was a kid, all I ever wanted to do was grow up so I could make my own decisions and start having some fun, already… geez. Adults had it all. They had money and cars, got to choose what they would be, where they lived, and how they were going to spend their time. Of course, if I had paid even a little bit of attention, I would have seen that my dad’s sometimes two and a half hour commute to and from New York, the work phone calls he got during dinner, and my mom’s exhaustion from dealing with five unruly and needy (and sometimes ungrateful) children, I might have noticed that the adults in my life weren’t really choosing very much in their lives at all. They did what they had to do to make life safe and comfortable for us children, catching only moments where they could actually do what they wanted; and even then, what they “wanted” was limited by what was best for the family. As the millennials would say, adulting is hard. And they’re right. The first inkling I had of this (remember, I completely ignored what my parents were experiencing) was the time that Peter and Susan had aged outside of Narnia. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—they were the High King and Queen of Narnia—how do you age out of that? And yet, Aslan said that they couldn’t come back. They were too old. When you’re an adult, certain things that are available to you as a kid are no longer available. Now, the Toys “R” Us commercial whose jingle included, “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toy’s R Us kid…” and a song by The Ramones called, “I Don’t Wanna...

Out for Blood in Kong: Skull Island Mar17

Out for Blood in Kong: Skull Island...

Be ye warned: spoilers ahead. Fear is an effective motivator. The problem is that it doesn’t always motivate us toward what is right. In Kong: Skull Island, a very fearful man, Bill Randa, leads a federally funded “mapping expedition” just as the Vietnam War is wrapping up to a previously unknown island that he claims the Russians are about to get to. He’s granted a science team, military escort, and photographer, and hires an ex-British Special Forces tracker as well. Almost everyone on the expedition believes that they’re there to map and explore the island for the benefit of humanity. But, it’s later revealed that Randa’s true purpose is to hunt down and kill a monster, one that he suspected was living on the island. I openly defy anyone who would dare call King Kong a monster—he is a good, kind, very large ape who has made it his life’s work to protect the people of his island. Naturally, he’s feared because he’s big—but anyone who would take the time to observe his behaviour would see immediately that he’s all about protecting the weak. The first time we see Kong, he appears in front of two World War II pilots, born into nations at war with each other, who have crash landed on Skull Island and are facing off on a precipice. They are each trying to kill the other when Kong suddenly appears, towering over them. We don’t know exactly what happened next, but their encounter with Kong, who had no intention of harming them, made them brothers, and afterwards they found a new community to care for them in the native inhabitants of the island. They were placed in safety, while Kong kept every danger, in the form of vicious monsters who...

No Batman is an Island Feb27

No Batman is an Island...

Be ye warned: this article contains spoilers for The LEGO Batman Movie. Batman is a loner. He’s the Dark Knight, moving through the shadows and being a vigilante all over the place. Even when the Justice League was formed (partly by his design), he didn’t want to be tied down by the responsibility of belonging. The LEGO Batman Movie is a hilarious and exciting exploration of Batman’s desire for solitude and his need for companionship. In his famous poem, John Donne said, “No man is an island.” Batman, as Alfred points out, not only lives on an island, but has formed himself into an island by pushing everyone away. But, human beings need relationship, were even specifically created for it, and so in his attempt to be entirely self-sufficient, he makes his Siri-like supercomputer into somewhat of a friend. He chats with it as he’s fighting crime—mostly giving directions—and then it chats with him upon his return to the Bat Cave. The computer is sort of like his “Wilson” from the movie Castaway—Batman doesn’t realize it, of course, but he built himself a companion that cannot die and that he can control to suit his desired level of intimacy. Batman built himself a companion that cannot die and that he can control to suit his desired level of intimacy. Any Batman fan knows that the root of his desire to be alone is the tragic loss of his parents; they were murdered in front of him as he helplessly stood by. That’s the root of all that he does and all that he is. When he saves the city from pretty much every single member of the Rogues Gallery in an opening scene, he retreats to his island and ponders the last family photo...

Seeing with the Heart in The Little Prince Jan06

Seeing with the Heart in The Little Prince...

Netflix recently released a film version of The Little Prince, one of my favourite books. They placed the story in the context of a meeting between the author and a little girl who really needed to hear the tale. This little girl was being forced to grow up way before her time; she had loss upon loss heaped upon her without any acknowledgment or assistance in processing it. She lost her father’s presence in her life through divorce, with snow globes he would send from his travels as a poor substitute. Her decisions for her life were replaced by her mother’s vision of life—a barren calendar packed with busy tasks but perfectly empty of meaning or joy. The collapse of the mother’s hopes for her own life made her so fearful for her daughter’s future that she controlled every aspect of it that she could. At one point, the stress of future success was so burdensome that the little girl fainted. Her world had become so small and so focused that there was no room for error, no room for failure, and no time for fun, friends, or rest. “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.” When a life becomes so narrow and so devoid of hope or joy, it can become something of a mini-apocalypse. Here’s a funny thing about that word apocalypse; although the current cultural meaning of it has become “a great calamity” or “disaster,” the true meaning is “revelation.” The association with disaster comes from the Book of Revelation, whose title in Greek is Apocalypse (interpreting it as a disaster is very unfair, but that’s another story for another time). What is more interesting is that when disaster strikes in our lives, it is an amazing...

A Princess to Follow Dec28

A Princess to Follow

When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be the helpless princess in a tower waiting for someone to come rescue me. I wasn’t the Maid Marion or Snow White type. You’d never catch me in the forest chillin’ with the animals and singing “someday my prince will come.” Well, actually I did do that once, but it was straight parody. I wanted to be Robin Hood—or at the very least one of the Merry Men, the knight slaying the dragon, the spy defeating the despot, the rebel saving the galaxy from the Empire. I don’t meant to say that I wanted to be a dude—that was never the case. I grew up with brothers and cousins and now I have sons, and I am more convinced than ever that boys have cooties. But, in my mind, I could be a girl and a hero. I credit this sensibility to my healthy diet of stories with strong female characters. For every helpless Disney princess, there was Eowyn, Wonder Woman, Joan of Arc, or Judith (who lobbed off Holofernes’ head in the Bible). Plus, God made man and woman equal, both in God’s image and likeness, and there were tons of kick-butt heroines in the Bible. Every little girl who has the heart of a warrior will have a place to draw inspiration from. The Star Wars franchise portrays strong women in various ways throughout their movies. I particularly appreciated the roles of the Rogue One ladies. Lyra Erso was a wife and mother who believed deeply in the Force and tried to prepare her daughter for the likely return of Imperial baddies. When Director Krennic came and threatened her family, she didn’t cower. She died trying to protect her husband and daughter. Mon...

A Cure for Fear: Scarecrow and Personal Freedom Nov30

A Cure for Fear: Scarecrow and Personal Freedom...

Sometimes I’m more interested in the development of the villains than the heroes. Watching little Bruce Wayne in Gotham is great, but then there’s Scarecrow. I remember the first episode Dr. Jonathan Crane, a.k.a. Scarecrow, showed up. He’s super creepy. And on that night, while I was watching the show, I unintentionally did something super creepy myself. I frequently text myself ideas that I might use at a later date. That night, I typed on my phone these lines from the show, “Imagine the thing you fear most in the world.  Imagine that’s all you see.  Every waking hour.”  The text was sent, but it did not go to me.  It went to the grandfather of one of my kid’s friends—whom I had only met once. When I realized what I had done—a full day later!—I texted a frantic apology. He was very nice about it, but I suspect he thought there was something seriously wrong with me. The reason I wrote down that quote was because Scarecrow illustrates (on an exaggerated, supervillain-sized scale) what sort of evil can happen when one has little to no personal freedom. Being free to make choices is part of what makes us human. Personal freedom is vital on a lot of levels. It’s also an important idea to me because of my belief that human beings are made in the likeness of God. I have lots of personal freedom because my needs have always been met; I have been well-educated, I live in a pretty safe place, and I have opportunities to succeed. I am very aware of the difference between right and wrong and have been brought up with the ability to discern and make choices that are life-giving and wholesome—or not.  And yet, I can...

One Lantern, Two Lantern, Green Lantern, Blue Lantern Nov02

One Lantern, Two Lantern, Green Lantern, Blue Lantern...

I’m a big fan of the Green Lantern. If I was going to be a superhero, that’s who I’d want to be. Also, the Lanterns remind me of the Catholic Church—they choose people from among the community and assign them to care for the people in that place, they have councils and a hierarchy, they make fabulously horrible mistakes with galactic repercussions and, ultimately, their objective is to bring justice and peace. I like the Green Lanterns in particular because their thing is Will. The Will is one of the most amazing attributes of humanity. We are each given our own, we’re free to use it as we like, and when we use it the right way, it makes us more divine. Will is the strongest aspect of my faith. I’m not a real “feely” person, so for me, faith isn’t about warm fuzzies. I don’t spend a lot of time feeling God’s presence. Instead, I do a lot of being bossy in my prayer time; telling God what I need, what my friends need, and asking Him to help me make good choices. Feelings can be misleading and sometimes misplaced. I prefer what I can see, comprehend and manipulate (not in a bad way). I try to be attentive to other people’s feelings by listening carefully, but my approach has a tendency to be a little clinical. So, my faith is mostly an act of the will. For me, faith isn’t about warm fuzzies. At my new parish, I met a guy who was telling me about the Blue Lanterns; they are all about Hope. Hope is great, if you have it. I think of it (maybe wrongly) as being in the realm of feelings—because you feel hope, right? I believe in God. I believe...

Pokémon Go to the Eighties...

There is a certain segment of the Earth’s population that is entirely incapable of hearing, seeing or experiencing any random thing without relating it to a completely unrelated cultural reference. For those individuals (many of whom are probably Generation X-ers), I offer to you Pokémon Go characters worked into the titles of five eighties and nineties songs. Can you guess the originals? 1. We Don’t Need Another Spearow “We don’t need another Spearow, we don’t need another Fearow, all we want is one small Ditto, Pokémon Go.” 2. Caterpie “Caterpie… on the trail to butterfree.” 3. Pik-A-Chu “Pik-a-chu, pik-a-chu; Golly jeepers, where’d you get those creatures, Kanto? Johto? Where did you get those guys?” 4. Pop Goes the Weedle “Pop goes the Weedle, ’cause the Weedle goes pop!” 5. Kakuna Rattata “Kukuna rattata! They’re two common guys. Kakuna Rattata! They will make you crazed. And they will plague you all the rest of your days! They are all you see, them and Caterpie. Kakuna...

Why You Should Watch Cartoons with Your Kids Oct17

Why You Should Watch Cartoons with Your Kids...

I’m routinely told by other adults, “I don’t watch cartoons anymore.” Their loss, I say!  Cartoons are some of my favourite entertainment, and I love kids’ cartoons. In fact, when the kids wander off and I still have them on, I get a pleading look and a semi-desperate question from my husband, “Do we have to keep watching this? The kids are in bed…” Yes, yes we do. Cartoons Are Awesome The first cartoons were made for adults. Naturally, they had appeal for all ages, but the jokes, references, and subject matter were pretty grown up. Even now, cartoon movies consistently add jokes “for parents” that are just plain messed up. My eldest son recently warned me that there were some very inappropriate things in the Disney movie, Cars (apparently, he thinks his mom is as innocent as the BVM). He was shocked at what he now understood. Besides the fact that cartoons are some of the best stuff on TV, I’m at a particular advantage for liking them. Many parents, trusting that “it’s a kids’ show,” will let their children watch cartoons without giving any thought to their message or content. Time and time again, I have been surprised, disappointed and, at times, horrified by some of the stuff marketed directly to children. An Opportunity for Discussion My kids aren’t very young—they’re 12 and 15—so we aren’t watching pre-k shows. The shows that are directed at their ages include themes and issues that older kids are likely dealing with in school and social settings, like dating, relationships, attraction to others, parties, moral dilemmas, and problem solving. Except that some of the ways these themes are presented are not what I want modeled for my children (especially since one is getting to an age when dating is...

I’m Only Humanoid Oct12

I’m Only Humanoid...

I do not trust robots, least of all robots with artificial intelligence. There are a million examples from science fiction (which is obviously the most reliable source for determining the future of Earth) why robots with artificial intelligence are a terrible idea—the Terminator, Cybermen, Hal, Ultron, and the Matrix, to name a few. Despite the decades of fictional warnings, there are companies currently creating actual, functioning robots with artificial intelligence who, when interviewed, have expressed their analysis of humanity as inferior and worthy of either destruction  or placement in zoos. The idea of robots reasoning on their own scares the crap out of me. It frightens me because compassion and empathy cannot be programmed; reason without those qualities is, as the books and movies warn us, dangerous. It cannot see the whole picture, and decisions made without all of the pertinent information (which AI always assumes it has), are not usually helpful. When you have a unit that believes it has access to all information, is convinced of its own superiority and infallibility, and does not have emotions like fear or sympathy to keep it in check, I can only see one of two futures; either it runs for president on a platform of racism and terror, or it takes over and destroys the world. Because that’s the only logical conclusion to the mess we’ve made of our planet. Failure is, arguably, one of the most important human experiences. But then there’s Data. Data is the Spock of Star Trek: Next Generation. He’s also an android. Like Spock, Data finds humans fascinating. His fascination, however, is not a curiosity like Spock’s is, but is desirous of true understanding. He wants to be human. And he sees us in a unique way—through the lens of an...

Duped by Davros Oct03

Duped by Davros

Most of the time, when I’m watching a movie or TV show, I can see right through the plot twists. I catch the foreshadowing and can predict what’s coming (and sometimes dialogue—which means that it must be pretty poorly written). I like to think that I can see a lie coming from a mile away because I have worked in pastoral ministry for almost 20 years. But the episode of Doctor Who, “The Witch’s Familiar,” had my poor brain in a tizzy. I should have seen through Davros’ act—he even gave himself away early in the conversation when he called the Daleks’ compassion a “defect.” He told the Doctor that compassion “grows strong and fierce in you like a cancer” and that it “will kill you in the end,” to which the Doctor replied, “I wouldn’t die of anything else.” I mean, he completely laid his evilness out there. He said it flat out. Could he have been more obvious?! But, I got sucked in to his tears. I got sucked into his apparent remorse right along with the Doctor. He’s Davros—he’s pure evil! But, I’m Catholic! No one is pure evil—everyone can be redeemed! Initially, using a tactic that would have worked on himself at one time, Davros tried to tempt the Doctor to touch the cables that would suck his regenerative power out of him by making him think that he could wipe out all of the Daleks. The Doctor didn’t succumb. So, when that didn’t work, like the super-evil villain that he is, Davros changed gears and went for what he sees as the Doctor’s greatest weakness (and just went on and on about it!)—his compassion. Davros cried. He asked to look into his face like a dying family member would request. He asked if...

The Dawn of Star Trek Villains Sep14

The Dawn of Star Trek Villains...

Since its debut as a TV series in 1966, Star Trek has a been inventive, iconic, engaging, and at times hilarious. Characters, catch phrases and creatures have stolen a permanent spot in our cultural landscape. Even non-nerds know that redshirts will die—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t have a frame of reference for a prolonged yelling of “Kaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhnnnnnnn!” Over the years, Star Trek has served as an entertaining way to challenge my assumptions, beliefs, and conscience on many moral topics—from the development of technology, to politics, to intercultural relations, to policies on war and peace, to racism—the list is as long as the number of episodes that span the different branches of the television and movie franchise. So, it’s not surprising that the last couple of movies they turned out, Into Darkness and Beyond also tackled issues that had me leaving the theatre with so many more thoughts then when I entered. Both of these movies tackle one large issue (with nuances thrown in, of course)—the development of villains. Into Darkness offers the backstory of one the most important villains ever—Kahn.  Beyond introduces us to Krull. Both of these personalities are, in part, the result of actions taken by members of Star Fleet and the Federation. We see a level of responsibility in the creation of villains that belongs to the cultures, organizations, lawmakers, and citizens. Kahn, who becomes a mortal foe of Star Fleet, and more personally, Captain James T. Kirk, was literally created to be a fighting machine. After the danger of his ability was discovered, he was placed in suspended animation and awakened centuries later by a war-hungry Admiral of Starfleet (Admiral Marcus) who forced Kahn to develop horrific weapons so that he could start a war...

All About a Baby Aug19

All About a Baby

There once was an evil queen whose destruction was foretold in legend. The bringer of her destruction was to be an infant, and this infant would be known by a birthmark. And so, when the prophesied time had arrived, the queen inspected every child born in her kingdom. When the baby was found, she sought to kill her, but a good midwife placed the child in a basket in the river where it was discovered by a kindly halfling wife who, naturally wanted to adopt her. The baby’s innocence and vulnerability evoked compassion from the good woman; and so, to the dislike of her husband, Willow, the baby was taken into their home and given asylum. Until… Well, the story features unlikely heroes, alliances, conversions, epic battles, faeries, magic and monsters—you know—all the things that make a fantasy story great. The baby isn’t really a main character, because babies don’t do much. But, she is the main theme. Her safety, and the hope that she represents, are what spur the characters on. The baby is at first hated—the evil queen, Bavmorda, believes that if she kills the baby, her monarchy will remain intact. To end a young, innocent life is convenient and so she has no qualms about doing it. That’s the thing about evil, it has no concern for another’s welfare. It is devoid of nature, because our nature is to love. A few relatively powerless people get involved—first the midwife, then Willow’s family, and two silly sprites. But, it’s not power that will win here—power is what Bavmorda has. When the baby is at Willow’s house, Bavmorda’s scary dog creatures ransack his village looking for the baby. When he reveals that he has what the dogs are looking for, Willow is charged...

Call Me Treebeard Jul01

Call Me Treebeard

Call me Treebeard. Hrum, Hoom… If I lived in Middle-earth, I’d be an Ent. Like Treebeard, my motto is “Do not be hasty.” But, also like Treebeard, I might take you for a small orc and step on you if I don’t first hear your voice. I’m also cautious—if I’m going to develop a relationship, I won’t rush into it, and I prefer to ask the questions rather than reveal a whole lot about myself before I know who I’m dealing with. And to make matters worse, I’m a Christian—and not just any kind of Christian, but the slowest of all Christians—I’m Catholic. And nothing is slower than the Catholic Church at making decisions. The language of my faith is “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking the time to say, and to listen to.” If you don’t believe me, go to a Catholic Mass. Or read an encyclical. Or an exhortation. Like the Ents, we take forever to make a decision—the Church will “room tum, room tum, roomty toom tum” for years and years before we change anything. I recently participated in a three-day meeting as part of a process in my diocese to re-imagine the way we “do Church” on a parish level. It was a response to declining numbers in all things Catholic because, no matter what was going on around us, we were doing the same stuff over and over, hoping for a new outcome. Many of our trees are getting sleepy and less Entish… But, getting Catholics (clergy and laypeople) to think about doing things differently—even when it’s a matter of self-preservation—is like convincing Ents to storm Isengard;...

Taking Off the Masks Jun20

Taking Off the Masks

Glasses on, he’s a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet. Glasses off, he’s a Son of Krypton, ready to save the universe. Glasses on, she’s Diana Prince—a sweet, unassuming officer in the US military. Glasses off, she’s Wonder Woman, Princess of the Amazonians. Their glasses serve as masks to hide their secret identities. I love that, for at least these two, the disguises they wear are in their “regular” lives—they take off their “masks” to be the hero that is natural to them, instead of putting one on to become something “other.” Many superheroes wear masks that are important to their survival. Masks allow them to function in regular society so that they can have something of a normal life, gather intel, and protect their loved ones from villains who might seek to hurt or control them. Masks offer protection, boundaries, and retreat. In The Princess Bride, when asked by Fezzik why he wore a mask, Wesley replied, “It’s just that masks are terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” His answer is a flippant comment to dodge the question, but it is also a truth. Masks are terribly comfortable. Let’s face it (see what I did there?)—we all portray to the world the image that we want seen, the person that we want to be perceived as. Social media makes it so much easier than it used to be… I can create the mask of whatever reality I want to all of my “friends” through pictures, memes, and text, and I never have to step outside or run into another human being to do it. If I wear masks too much, I run the risk of forgetting who I am. Technology has created a myriad of ways for me to mask myself.  I can post things that make me look good, but leave off the things that pain or embarrass me. With online gaming, I can engage people around the world, creating a sense of camaraderie without the necessity of intimacy. With online shopping, I can order everything I need to survive and have it delivered without speaking to a single person. All of these things are amazing and awesome, and to an introvert like myself, really a dream come true!  I can live in almost complete anonymity if I want to. The art of social interaction is dying in many places. People’s feelings are neglected; the consequences of words and actions are  forgotten. People have a tendency to be less concerned about hurting other’s feelings when not communicating face to face. But even after stepping outside to deal with other human beings face-to-face—which I actually do for a living—I continue to wear masks. Sometimes it’s necessary; in dealing with other people’s feelings and grief, I often have to mask mine so I can focus on their pain. When I’m talking with a family who has lost a loved one, or a person suffering with addiction, homelessness, or abuse, I have to keep a strong face on so that I don’t turn into an empathetic puddle next to them. If my child is sick or hurt and I’m worried, I need to hide my fear so that theirs isn’t magnified. There are times when wearing a mask is for the good of others. But, there are also times that I wear one to protect myself. When I choose not to make myself vulnerable, when I don’t like who I am and wish I was someone different, when I don’t feel like I’m good enough, or if I’m afraid of not being accepted in a particular circumstance, I put on that comfortable thing, the face that I am willing to present. Sometimes that mask is self-deprecation—I’m going to make myself a joke before you do. It might look like apathy or laughing off a hurtful comment. I might wear the mask of self-righteousness or defense if...

Zuko’s Prodigal Mom May09

Zuko’s Prodigal Mom

When I found out that there was a trilogy of graphic novels, The Search, that told the story of Zuko’s Mom from Avatar: The Last Airbender, I was desperate for it. The relationship between Zuko and Ursa appeared to be very tender and very formative of Zuko’s young life. I was intrigued by her character and was dying to know what happened to her. The Search takes place after the defeat of Fire Lord Ozai and the establishment of Zuko’s reign. Things are pretty peaceful in the Fire Nation, so having received some info on his mother, Zuko decides to go looking for her, leaving the kingdom under the watch of Uncle Iroh. He takes along his friends and Azula (who is completely nuts and seeking revenge on her mother) with him. Before Ursa had disappeared, she had been in some of the worst circumstances a woman could find herself—forced to marry a cruel and abusive man she didn’t love and required to publicly play the part of a princess that she never wanted to be. She attempted to protect her children from her husband’s tyranny and ultimately had to abandon them for their own sake. So much of motherhood is forgiving and being forgiven, forgetting and choosing not to forget. After she runs away, Ursa goes back to the town she grew up in and reconnects with the man she wanted to marry, Ikem. Having rediscovered her true love, she also becomes aware of a spirit called the Mother of Faces. The Mother has the ability to change the appearance of anyone, which seems like a good idea for someone being hunted by the Fire Lord. Ursa is conflicted with whether she should stay away or watch her children from afar. Ursa: There’s so much about my life in the royal palace that I want to leave behind…but I’m a mother now. You understand? I can’t leave my children behind. But, if I got a new face… a new identity… maybe I could return to the capital city undetected! Maybe I could at least see my children again… make sure they’re okay! Ikem: But what then? Would you stay in the city, hoping to catch a glimpse of them from time to time? Watch them grow up from afar? What kind of life is that? Ursa: You don’t know what it’s like. They’re always here. A part of me wonders what they’re doing… wonders if they’re happy or sad or in pain… always. It’s torture. The Mother of Faces offers Ursa a new mind, as well as a new face. She will have the opportunity to forget all of her painful memories. I’ll admit—I’ve spent my whole life wishing for a different face, and the idea of forgetting everything and starting over is, at times, extremely attractive (I have not been above threatening to run away from home from time to time). But I know because of the crazy love I have for my kids, I couldn’t actually go through with it if I was offered the opportunity. Ursa, on the other hand, makes the choice to forget herself and her children—she takes on a new face, a new mind, and a new name. Zuko and the gang are successful in discovering Ursa (now named Noriko) and when she is confronted with the story of who she really is, her memory is recovered. She is able to be reconciled to who she is, and to her son who never stopped loving her and never gave up on finding her. I believe that his selfless love, in part, made her able to embrace her true self—to become who she was meant to be. In their recovery of one another, they are both healed in memory—not losing it, but being restored to joy by accepting it. The idea of forgetting everything and starting over is, at times, extremely attractive. Motherhood is...