With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography Aug07

With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography...

“I’m offended.” This phrase has become emotionally laden, and all too often used in North American culture to gain unearned power over whatever or whomever has caused the “offense.” But if I’m offended by someone, does that give me special rights? If anything, being offended confers responsibility: responsibility to address the source of offense, to explain my point of view, and, perhaps most importantly, to listen to the other perspective. That’s a lot of work, however; no wonder the path of least resistance leads to Internet trolling and flaming tweets instead. So, here am I; I’m offended. I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming in theaters and loved its portrayal of a kid struggling to understand what it means to be a hero. The next day, I read a review by Ben Kayser, Managing Editor of Movieguide, the self-described “Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment,” which not only described the film as poorly written and badly directed, but also took issue with a single line that the headline claimed “might have ruined” the entire film. Kayser took offense at the line “I was… looking at… porn?” Peter Parker’s friend Ned says this during the climactic battle when he’s providing logistical support in the school’s computer lab. Doing his best to assist his buddy as “the guy in the chair,” Ned gets busted by a teacher who demands to know what Ned is doing. Not wanting to betray Peter’s secret identity, Ned offers this plausible but shameful excuse.  Kayser found this “irresponsible and frustrating,” believing the line to be an attempt to render porn consumption “normal and acceptable.” I stewed over this for a couple of days before I finally worked out why I was irked: Kayser was offended.  Reading his article and review, I realized that he was offended that Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t measure up to his values. This is illogical because the only way to ensure that any artistic endeavour measures up to your values is to produce it yourself, by yourself. As any artist will attest, the moment another person becomes involved in your project, compromise begins. I don’t agree with Kayser that people of faith have to compromise anything in watching this film. Despite Kayser’s offense, porn consumption is normal, or at least it has become so in our society. Most famously, Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal had to restructure his  study comparing men who consumed porn with those who hadn’t because he couldn’t find any control subject in their twenties who had never consumed porn. On this point, I agree with Kayser: this is not acceptable, for a variety of reasons. I don’t agree, however, that it’s a cause for hand-wringing and finger-pointing, or throwing rotten tomatoes at an amazing film. I suggest, rather, that this is an opportunity, a chance to have a discussion. Porn users are not a proud bunch. We might be willing to acknowledge and detail usage in an anonymous Internet survey, but none of us are going to list it as an accomplishment on our curriculum vitae. There won’t be any “Porn Pride Parades” coming to your community anytime soon. You might know someone who is upfront and casual about using porn, but for the rest of us, it’s a source of shame and we are only as healthy as our darkest secrets. If nothing else, Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. I took my eleven-year-old son to this movie, and I will be using this moment to have a frank and open discussion with him about pornography; where Kayser takes offense, I see opportunity. My son wants to be like me; I want him to be better. Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. Kayser also doesn’t seem to understand that acknowledging that something is occurring is not the same thing as condoning it. If...

Heroes of All Sizes Jul25

Heroes of All Sizes

“Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” —Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back I was teenager attending Friday night youth group and the speaker was talking about the Biblical hero, Samson. He claimed that the hirsute judge of Israel didn’t resemble our muscle-bound superheroes of today, but rather: “He looked like… he looked like…” His eyes cast about and fell on me: “Tim!” He got his laugh, and yes, I was a fairly small, scrawny adolescent (and I still don’t take up a lot of real estate). But it was pivotal moment for me, because I understood his point: Samson derived his strength from the Spirit of God, not the size of his muscles, just as Yoda gained his power from the Force. Quite a few modern superheroes reflect this dichotomy of unassuming alter-ego versus superhero persona. DC’s Captain Marvel? Eight-year-old Billy Batson transforms into the mighty hero by speaking a magic word (talk about wish fulfillment!). Marvel’s Hulk? Scientist Bruce Banner becomes the green goliath when he can no longer control his rage. The list goes on, but the pattern remains the same; the hero exists in a weak mortal form until a transformation occurs, whence he or she is suddenly revealed as the peak of physical perfection. (Admittedly, there are lots of superheroes who don’t follow this pattern: such as Superman or Thor, who possess their powers at all times, or Iron Man and Batman, who have no powers whatsoever, but that’s fodder for a different article.) These people have no special powers, no extraordinary skills, no fancy costumes, but make no mistake, they are heroes. There’s a movement today called...