On Being the Perfect Daughter Jan15

On Being the Perfect Daughter...

Mulan and Moana are two of my favourite Disney princesses, and they have a lot in common. Both sneak off and disobey their parents in order to save their homes from great danger. Both are in the minority of Disney princesses because their parents are still alive. Neither are taken seriously when they start their quest, but end up gaining the esteem of their companions. (Also, they both have five letter names starting with the letter M.) But the similarity that stands out most to me is that they both struggle with the failure to be the daughter their parents long for them to be. Look at me, I will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter… if I were truly to be myself, I would break my family’s heart. (“Reflection” from Mulan) Mulan is a thinker and a dreamer. She longs for greater things, but culture demands that she bring honour to her family the only way women are allowed: marry well and bear children, preferably sons. I feel like I need to fit a certain mould in order to honour my parents. I wish I could be the perfect daughter, but I run back to the water, no matter how hard I try. (“How Far I’ll Go” from Moana) Moana is an explorer at heart, but as the daughter of the chief, and as next in line to lead her people, she is constantly forced to turn her gaze from the sea to the people in front of her. Both Mulan and Moana are faced with expectations they don’t feel they are able to fulfill. Society, their parents, and even they themselves have set a bar that seems impossible to overcome. And it seems all the harder because these...

Reading Grimm: Redefining Family Jan12

Reading Grimm: Redefining Family...

When I first read “Brother and Sister,” I was struck by how many familiar elements it contained that I knew from other fairy tales: siblings who are forced out on their own (like “Hansel and Gretel”); a wicked stepmother (like “Cinderella”) who is also a witch (like “Snow White”); that wicked stepmother also tries to usurp her stepchildren’s position with her own children (again, like “Cinderella”). Add in a little therianthropy (humans transforming into animals) and this odd fairy tale is a weird hodgepodge of tropes. But of all the familiar elements, it’s the portrayal of the domestic that strikes me as the most interesting. As noted folklorist Jack Zipes commented, fairy tales were never the sole domain of children; however a key aspect of fairy tales is an attempt to understand the complexities of the world. Only a superficial reading of these stories would say that home is safe and the outside world is dangerous and full of predators. In “Brother and Sister,” we see the strength of the familial bond between the main characters, but their home life is not safe. To escape the tyranny of their wicked stepmother, Brother and Sister leave their home to make their way into the world and, in essence, find their place in the world. In the broad strokes of fairy tales, stepmothers represent a disruption to the family unit. It’s a wholly unfair portrayal that still has negatively coloured stepparents, but as a sort of literary shorthand, it shows a family that looks whole on the surface with dysfunction just beneath. In the absence of a caring, nurturing home life, Brother and Sister embark on a search to find family. What’s most interesting to me is that although Sister marries the King and has a...

The Anger of Apes and Humans Jan10

The Anger of Apes and Humans...

I admit it—I struggle with road rage. It was particularly out of control when I first received my license as a teenager. While I was driving one evening, a car turned into my lane unexpectedly. I changed lanes and hit the gas, intending to pull up next to the driver and, uh, show my displeasure. But before I could do so, the elderly woman behind the wheel waved an apologetic hand toward me, and in that instant, I calmed down and realized how inexplicably angry I had become. I waved back and went on my way. Whenever I’m behind the wheel now, I remember that incident. I try to become a calmer driver, one who doesn’t need a wave to remind me to be kind on the road. But it remains a challenge for me to respond with grace when I feel wronged. Anger is easier, and satisfying in the moment—an emotion Caesar, the protagonist in the Planet of the Apes reboot, is intimately familiar with. In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the previous film in the trilogy, Koba, a bonobo who is unable to forgive humans for the experiments they conducted on him, sets the impetus for war between humans and apes. Though he died in that movie, his specter continues to haunt Caesar as he finds himself becoming more and more like Koba. In War for the Planet of the Apes, Caesar chooses to hunt down the Colonel, who had murdered his family. Caesar leaves his tribe defenseless by doing so. As violence escalates, Caesar, having always been the ironic picture of what humanity could be rather than what it is, grows angrier and angrier. After one of his comrades, Luca, is killed, he declares that the humans must pay,...

Dealing with Dementors and Depression Jan08

Dealing with Dementors and Depression...

J.K. Rowling’s dementors, first introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban, are a frightening, visceral force of evil, serving both as a villainous power and a major plot point. But these cloaked and hooded minions are more than just another antagonist that Harry must defeat; they are reminiscent of a stigmatized, fundamentally human struggle: mental illness and depression. Rowling herself has confirmed that the dementors represent the horrors of depression, and if we take a closer look at these frightening creatures, similarities between their impact on the characters and the realities of mental illness abound. In both the Harry Potter books and their on-screen counterparts, dementors cause a creeping sense of dread, a tangible coldness in the air, and a dredging-up of horrible memories. The longer a character is in the presence of a dementor, whose very name suggests “mental demons,” the worse these symptoms become. Harry hears his mother screaming, feels a numbing cold, and eventually, unable to cope with the horror, passes out. These symptoms are similar to clinical depression—a darkness, an almost existential dread, and claustrophobic, tunnel-like enclosing, which leaves the one suffering in a state of suspended numbness and despair. Though hope may exist outside of the dementors’ range, that hope is inaccessible; it might as well be non-existent to those suffering. Lupin affirms that the amplified reaction Harry has to dementors is not because there’s something wrong with him. The first time Harry experiences the terrifying effects of the dementors, he is ashamed and embarrassed in the aftermath. Though Hermione and Ron are also horrified, they do not respond nearly as viscerally as he does. Indeed, Harry is frequently mocked by his arch-enemy, Draco Malfoy, because of how strongly he responds to the dementors. Lucky for Harry, though, he is...

Reading Grimm: Mental Illness and “The Juniper Tree” Dec29

Reading Grimm: Mental Illness and “The Juniper Tree”...

Baking your murder victim into a pudding may not be the best way to dispose of the evidence, but that’s what we get in Grimm’s fairy tale, “The Juniper Tree.” In this story, a rich man and his beautiful wife love each other deeply, but they have no children even though the wife prays for it everyday. One day, while she is peeling an apple beneath the juniper tree in their courtyard, she cuts her finger and blood falls on the snow. She sighs, “if I had but a child, as red as blood and as white as snow.” The juniper tree fills her with a sense of joy and comfort, and she feels that her wish will come true. But, eight months later she eats some juniper berries and becomes ill. One month after that, she has a baby boy and dies because she is filled with so much joy at the sight of him. She is buried beneath the juniper tree. The man marries another woman and they have a daughter. There is an immediate contrast between the boy’s biological mother—who essentially died from her own “goodness”—and the stepmother, who beats the boy because he stands in the way of her daughter receiving an inheritance. In order to get him our of the way, she kills him, but frames her daughter for the murder and then bakes the boy into black puddings (something more akin to a cake, for those who are unfamiliar with British colloquialisms for desserts), which she serves to the father when he returns home. The little girl, however, is so distraught that she collects the boy’s bones, wraps them in her best handkerchief, and places them beneath the juniper tree. There, the bones are turned into a bird,...

The Lies We Tell: Deception in The Good Place Dec27

The Lies We Tell: Deception in The Good Place...

Warning: Spoilers This Way Lie In the first season of NBC’s The Good Place, deception is not only part of the storytelling and catalyst for humour, but an important thematic element. Anyone who’s watched even a few sitcoms knows how often they use lying and deception as a plot device to get the most laughs. Whether it’s George Constanza tricking his employers into thinking he’s at work by leaving his car in the parking lot or Chandler and Monica keeping their relationship secret from their friends, lies provide significant ground to explore comedic possibilities in these shows. But at a time when politicians and media pundits continue to normalize “alternate facts,” The Good Place explores the moral consequences of lying and the power of telling the truth. In the pilot episode, Eleanor Shellstrop discovers that she has died and has been admitted to “the good place,” an idyllic, heaven-like neighbourhood where only the best and altruistic souls go. Eleanor soon realizes that she’s not supposed to be there. She’s been somehow confused with another, much better woman who’s also named Eleanor Shellstrop. When Eleanor discovers that her presence is having disastrous consequences for the good place and its inhabitants, she decides that she has to do whatever it takes to stay—including lying and shifting blame to others.  In flashbacks to her life on earth, we see how self-centered and self-involved Eleanor was—every decision she made was about her own personal comfort and interest. Lying can make us feel powerful and help us avoid punishment, but can also create a subtle hell. As part of her plan, Eleanor also embarks on a course of study on ethics taught by Chidi, a tightly-wound professor of moral philosophy who is still haunted by the memory of a...

Facing Anxiety in a Wide World Dec26

Facing Anxiety in a Wide World...

I love stories of brave, powerful heroes and dream of being like them. But in reality, I’m shy and struggle with anxiety. I think I’m too weak to be a hero, but characters like Bilbo Baggins remind me that it’s possible to be both anxious and heroic. If anyone understands what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, it’s Bilbo. In the opening of The Hobbit, Bilbo is very comfortable in Bag End and doesn’t like anything disrupting his quiet life. Then Gandalf appears and embroils the hobbit in an adventure—without taking Bilbo’s opinion into consideration. When the dwarves unexpectedly arrive at Bag End, Bilbo is pushed to higher and higher levels of stress, which also describes my own experience. Gandalf sent the dwarves to Bag End without giving Bilbo any notice or explanation, and my life has a similar way of introducing one “dwarf” after another at the most inconvenient times. Eventually, it feels like too much to deal with. I end up wanting to react the same way Bilbo does: “The poor little hobbit sat down in the hall and put his head in his hands, and wondered what had happened, and what was going to happen, and whether they would all stay to supper.” That is, essentially, a description of anxiety: feeling overwhelmed by what is happening, what might happen, and what may be expected of you. Courage isn’t about what you feel; it’s about the choices you make regardless of your feelings. To make matters harder for Bilbo, the situation that stresses him feels normal to the dwarves and Gandalf. While the dwarves calmly discuss an adventure that might cost their lives, Bilbo has a panic attack at the thought: “Poor Bilbo couldn’t bear it any longer. At may never return he...

Reading Grimm: Old Women are Evil Dec08

Reading Grimm: Old Women are Evil...

The evil queen in Snow White. The old woman in Hansel and Gretel. The witch in The Little Mermaid. Cinderella’s stepmother. Are old ladies ever decent people in fairy tales? In The Old Woman in the Wood, a poor servant-girl is traveling with the family she serves, and robbers attack. Everyone dies except her, and she takes refuge under a tree. A dove gives her keys that open the tree and she is provided with food, a bed, and riches. The dove asks for a favour in return: that she enter a cottage where an old woman lives and steal a ring. The word “witch” or “hag” is not used at this point, and yet warning bells still go off in my head. In the fairy tales I’ve read, the old women, the stepmothers, the queens—they’re always evil. And my suspicions are confirmed when she turns out to be a “wicked witch” who had transformed a prince into the very tree the serving girl had taken shelter under. So why are so many old women typecast as evil? Maybe because, historically, mothers have had more influence on their children than fathers, and twisting that influence results in horrifying villains; someone who should be a nurturing role model turned into a psychotic murderer is terrifying indeed. Or maybe because women of power were a frightening thought to the patriarchy. Maybe they still are. Consider how much influence these characters have—they’re usually queens, can use magic, or both. And yet they’ve become corrupt, often attacking the young protagonist in order to protect something they value, acting out of vanity or jealousy. Is that just what men expected to happen if a woman came to power without a prince by her side? Though in this story’s case, the witch...

Samwise and Bob: Pages in a Greater Story Dec06

Samwise and Bob: Pages in a Greater Story...

From the moment I met Samwise Gamgee on the big screen, he has been beloved to me. Seeing Sean Astin bring one of my favourite Tolkien characters to life made the actor inextricable from Sam in my child’s mind. And through the years, as I have grown older and more aware of the beauties and horrors of the world around me, the roles which Sean Astin has played have stood the test of time, largely due to their redemptive qualities. So, when I saw that Astin would be playing Bob Newby in Stranger Things 2, I was sure that I’d find something to love about him. Both Bob the Brain and Sam Gamgee are vehicles for a universal truth, helping to show that there is in fact, “light and high beauty forever beyond” like Sam notices in The Return of the King. This hope is beyond the reach of the dark, even when the characters themselves seem fairly insignificant in their respective worlds. Bob and Sam are aware that they are in a larger narrative, that their role in their worlds and their small acts of goodness can reverberate through eternity. Sam’s revelation comes in the latter chapters of The Two Towers: Sam acknowledges that the truest and most memorable tales include some suffering, some sacrifice, and a heap of courage. “The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, the...

Reading Grimm: If Beauty is Skin Deep Nov24

Reading Grimm: If Beauty is Skin Deep...

We’re obsessed with beauty. I get it. Pretty things are nice to look at. But I don’t hide away in my room because I don’t have the grace of Gwyneth Paltrow or the glamour of Gal Gadot. Apparently that’s a thing you do in fairy tales, though. In the Grimm story “The Crystal Ball,” the youngest son of an enchantress sets off to find the Castle of the Golden Sun and save the princess, who is “waiting for deliverance.” He feels the need to leave home because his enchantress mother had transformed his two older brothers into an eagle and a whale, respectively. (She thought they would try to steal her power because, remember, people in fairy tales do not trust each other). After stealing a magic cap from a couple of giants, he finds the castle and is shocked when he meets the princess; though he had heard tales of her great beauty, she “had an ashen-gray face full of wrinkles, blear eyes, and red hair.” (Is red hair supposedly unattractive? I beg to differ, and so do all the Weasleys.) I’m saddened women have been taught the value of beauty within a culture of ridicule and body shaming. He is very disappointed, but the princess assures him this is not her usual form. She tells him to look at her reflection in the mirror to see her true appearance, and when he does, he sees “the likeness of the most beautiful maiden on earth, and saw, too, how the tears were rolling down her cheeks with grief.” She explains to him how she is to be “set free,” but it doesn’t seem anything is holding her captive besides her ugliness. The enchanter who cursed her isn’t keeping her in chains, she just...

Frodo vs. Beowulf: A Hobbit’s Heroics Nov22

Frodo vs. Beowulf: A Hobbit’s Heroics...

I’m going to die. Sometimes that thought swirls through my brain as I try to grasp its reality. That’s what living is: slowly expiring. And the older I get, the more frightening it becomes. I don’t want to die, but sooner or later someone will put my body in the ground and there will be nothing I can do about it. I probably won’t even get a say in how I die; it’ll happen how it happens. A similar thought plagued Frodo on his journey through Middle-earth. Though warrior societies view death as a matter of personal honour, what is a hobbit (or a hobbit at heart, like me) to do when confronted by the matter? Many of us are little people, more in love with the shade of a green tree in summer than we are with great deeds and adventure. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo finds his friends under the spell of a vengeful spirit—a barrow-wight. Much like the threat of Black Riders on the road, darkness has snuck up on him and fear grabs hold of him; the Ring also plays a subtle role. Out of sight, the wight chants a chilling incantation that freezes Frodo’s heart. Then a dark thought comes to him: “He wondered if he put on the Ring, whether the Barrow-wight would miss him, and he might find some way out. He thought of himself running free over the grass, grieving for Merry, and Sam, and Pippin, but free and alive himself. Gandalf would admit that there was nothing else he could do.” My respect for Frodo’s character would be reduced if he took this option out of danger, yet the thought makes sense because both the quest and Frodo’s life are at stake. Self-preservation...

How Fantasy Points to a Future World Nov20

How Fantasy Points to a Future World...

I am an escapist. I spend my time thinking about other worlds, dreaming about impossible things, and playing make-believe with my friends. But it’s hard to admit that I enjoy escaping. It only takes checking my Facebook feed to see all the pain and devastation in the real world. Just when I finished absorbing the details about the truck attack in New York City, I heard about the church shooting in Texas, and my heart breaks for everyone involved. I feel guilty setting those events aside for fantasy. If I really cared, shouldn’t I live in reality? As a Christian, shouldn’t I be focusing on how to make a difference? But one of the greatest Christian thinkers of the 20th century was an escapist too. C.S. Lewis wrote a children’s fantasy series, an adult science fiction trilogy, and several other speculative fiction works. The main characters in The Silver Chair, a later volume in Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (I’m still waiting for the movie), are forced to believe in a reality that stifled imagination. Maybe stories like Lewis’s provide a glimpse into something new and fantastic. English children Jill and Eustace have been sent by Aslan to find Prince Rillian, who was kidnapped years ago. Aslan gives them instructions and sends them on their quest, but they miss and ignore the signs they’re supposed to follow. Their thoughts wander even more when they slide down a tunnel to the underworld and are taken by gnomes through cavern after cavern, down farther and farther until Lewis writes, “And the worst thing about it was that you began to feel as if you had always lived . . . in that darkness, and to wonder whether sun and blue skies and wind and birds had not...

Reading Grimm: Selfishness begets Fear Nov17

Reading Grimm: Selfishness begets Fear...

People in fairy tales really don’t trust each other. Husbands assume their wives are lying and listen to the advice of murderous mothers-in-laws, a bird believes his housemates’ are overworking him, and a father plans to kill his sons for fear his daughter won’t be taken care of—just to name a few. Oftentimes, selfishness lies at the heart of this mistrust, and characters try to hold on to their desire so tightly they are constantly afraid of losing what they have. In the fairy tale “The White Cat” (the Grimm version is known as “Cherry” or “The Frog Bride”), a king has three sons “so clever and brave” he is afraid they will take over his kingdom before he dies, so he gives them an impossible task to perform. Whoever succeeds will receive the crown. I can’t help wondering why the king is so scared about losing his throne. If people in power are so constantly afraid of losing it that they spend all their time worrying, what’s the point? He’s actually inviting resentment from his sons by pitting them against each other, though they don’t seem troubled by his decree. While the youngest son is on his quest, which is to find the smallest and most beautiful dog in the land, he stumbles upon an enchanted mansion in a forest and there he meets a talking white cat. He decides to stay with her because he likes spending time with her so much. When the year is almost up, she reminds him that he still has a task to complete, then provides him with a dog tiny enough to fit into an acorn. The son presents it to the king, who has nothing “to say against the beauty of the little dog.” But...

Reading Grimm: Don’t Follow the (Blue) Light Nov10

Reading Grimm: Don’t Follow the (Blue) Light...

Making a deal with darkness never seems like a good idea, but in Grimm’s “The Blue Light,” the action is rewarded and even considered praiseworthy. “The Blue Light” is a fairy tale about a soldier whose king releases him from service due to his “many wounds.” Unable to earn a living, the soldier requests lodging at the home of a witch. She agrees—if the soldier does as she wishes, giving the story a deal-with-the-devil spin reminiscent of Esau in the Bible, who sold his birthright for a meal. The witch sends the soldier down a well to retrieve a magical blue light, intending to trap him there once he hands her the lantern. The soldier guesses her scheme, however, so the witch releases the rope and drops him into the well, light and all. The soldier, assuming his end has come, sulks for a while before deciding to smoke his pipe. He uses the witch’s lantern to light the pipe, again demonstrating his folly by using the resources of a witch. In a strange twist of fate, his smoking summons a magical dwarf, much like a genie in a lamp. The dwarf tells him, “‘I must do everything you bid me,’” and the soldier doesn’t hesitate to take advantage of the situation. Not only does he use the dwarf to escape from the well, but he also steals the witch’s gold and has the witch hung. Apparently, the Brothers Grimm didn’t consider theft, forced servitude, and revenge to be wicked. Fairy tale tradition might justify theft and revenge aimed at an evil person, but the soldier doesn’t stop there. Blaming the king for his problems, the soldier has the dwarf kidnap the king’s daughter while she’s asleep and makes her clean for him, thinking...

YouTube for the Fandom Loving Soul, Vol 2: Harry Potter Nov03

YouTube for the Fandom Loving Soul, Vol 2: Harry Potter...

New from the Geekdom House Records! Four explosive hits from original stars! It’s the YouTube for the Fandom-Loving Soul, Volume Two, featuring the Potterverse. The Second City, Neil Cicierega, Broad Strokes, and the much anticipated TheDCTVshow all make the cut in this once-in-a-lifetime combination that will knock your socks off. All for the low price of FREE. Money back guaranteed. Don’t wait. Watch now. 1. HOGWARTS: Which House Are You? 2. Potter Puppet Pals 3. The Greater Good – Dumbledore and Grindelwald Honourable Mention: VOLDEMORT: Origins of the Heir...

Facing Your Demons: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Fear Nov01

Facing Your Demons: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Fear...

If you’re not afraid of heights, riding to the top of the Empire State Building isn’t bravery. Facing someone else’s fear because it doesn’t bother you doesn’t mean you’re courageous. It’s when you confront your own fear, and it looms above you like a giant, horned demon, that you truly understand what it means to be a hero or a coward. In the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer “Fear Itself,” Buffy and the Scoobies wander through a frat house during Halloween, encountering cobwebs, spiders, and knife-wielding skeletons. But then the fears start to get real. And personal. Xander becomes invisible and unheard, because he’s afraid his friends don’t care about him and are moving forward with their lives while he’s standing still. Oz starts to turn into a werewolf even though it’s not a full moon; he runs away from Willow because he’s afraid he’ll hurt her. Willow conjures a light to show her the way out, but the spell backfires, harkening to her fear of being useless. Buffy fights vampires that erupt from the ground and tell her she will forever be alone. . . Read the rest of this article on Christ and Pop...

Reading Grimm: It’s Always a Woman’s Fault Oct20

Reading Grimm: It’s Always a Woman’s Fault...

You’d think if you learned your father wanted to kill you, you’d be a little upset with him. But in the Grimms’ fairy tale, “The Twelve Brothers,” the boys aren’t mad at their dad when he builds twelve coffins in preparation for slaughtering his sons. For some reason, that’s what he decides to do if his thirteenth child is a girl, so that “her riches may be the greater, and the kingdom fall to her alone.” Since their mom isn’t completely behind this plan, she warns them of their sister’s birth and they flee to an enchanted house in the woods and live there for ten years. The misogyny is clear—since they love their father, they’d rather blame the sister for being born. In fact, they’d rather blame all women, saying, “Shall we suffer death because of a girl! We swear to be revenged; wherever we find a girl we will shed her blood.” The inequality doesn’t end there, though. After they meet her and let her live, her goodness is demonstrated through housekeeping and her ability to keep everything “beautifully white and clean” (if you remember from my last post on “The Maiden Without Hands,” cleanliness equals goodness). Then she decides to pick twelve lovely lilies to give to her brothers as presents, but upon plucking them her brothers are turned into ravens. Thus, their horrifying fate is her fault. Again. You’d think if you learned your father wanted to kill you, you’d be a little upset with him. In order to transform them back, she has to stay silent for seven years. In fairy tales, it’s always the women who have to stay silent and still (e.g. “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty”). And it’s always the men who are turned into animals (e.g. “The Princess...

Zombies Among Us: iZombie Chows Down on Dehumanization Sep18

Zombies Among Us: iZombie Chows Down on Dehumanization...

In iZombie, zombies aren’t just mindless, shuffling corpses with skin rotting off their bones. Not if they have access to a regular supply of brains, anyway. The series’ main character, Liv Moore, is a member of Team Z, and she does the best she can, not only to survive in her new life but also to help others. She gets her meals by working at a morgue where she can sneak brains into her stuffed gnocchi on a daily basis. And because eating a brain allows her to see the dead person’s memories, she helps a police detective solve crimes by chowing down on murder victims’ cerebrums. As iZombie progresses, though, it becomes apparent that Liv isn’t alone. Seattle’s zombie population is surprisingly high, though most have learned to hide their presence (and ghoulish appearance) with hair dye and spray tans. This is a fact that Liv’s ex-fiancé, Major Lilywhite, learns through a traumatic series of events that ends with a zombie attempting to murder him. “I wasn’t crazy,” he tells Liv. “Zombies are real… And don’t worry, ‘cause I’m gonna kill them. I’m gonna kill them all.” Major automatically assumes all zombies are evil, and you can’t really blame him when brains are the main item on their menu. After hallucinating that Major accepts her zombie status, his announcement of a zombie hunting spree is shocking news to Liv. She continues to hide her true nature because she’s afraid he will hate her for it; she’s afraid he won’t think of her as a person any more. Not surprisingly, he’s less than happy when he does learn the truth. Read the rest of the article on Christ and Pop...

The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering Sep04

The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering...

“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.” This is the creed of the gunslingers, a blend of old west sheriffs and holy knights, who have been charged with defending the Tower and the people of the realm. Their word is law and their bullets strike true. They wander the realm defending the weak, caring for people and championing justice—or at least they used to before they all died. The Man in Black, a malicious sorcerer, has made it his life’s goal to destroy the Tower and end the humans’ reign. Two things stand in his way: Roland, the last of the gunslingers, and finding a child with the perfect “shining” (telekinetic-type force of mind that can see into the past and future, defeat demons, and contact people telepathically). Roland, for some reason, is resistant to the Man in Black’s magic so the sorcerer cannot kill Roland personally. But as the Man in Black does the next best thing: kills everyone Roland loves. Roland is left wandering, alone and distraught. This is where Jake Chambers, the missing piece of the Man in Black’s master plan, finds him and hears him profess, “there are no more gunslingers.” Only when Roland truly embraces a vulnerable, loving heart is he able to defeat his foe. Roland has ceased to care about the world around him and is obsessed with destroying...

The Uncomfortable Racism of C.S. Lewis Aug30

The Uncomfortable Racism of C.S. Lewis...

Since childhood, I’ve had a strong attachment to C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. My aunt gave me a set of the books, which currently sit in a place of honour in my office. I’ve read and reread the series throughout my life with a sense of wonder and delight. As my critical reading skills developed, and as I began to understand systemic power dynamics, my naïve love of Narnia gave way to a more complicated and nuanced relationship with the stories. I realized they could be almost heavy-handedly allegorical at times. The characters, particularly in the final novels, are overly broad, almost parodic. And don’t get me started on Lewis’s class assumptions or Susan and Lucy’s exclusion from battle. But the most troubling aspect of the series came to light a few years ago when I was first teaching a class on Lewis and Tolkien. Most of the students, like me, had been introduced to Lewis’s novels as children. A few had passed the series on to their own children, even grandchildren. One student, however, had taken the class to fill an elective and had no prior knowledge of Narnia or Middle-earth. In our conversation about The Horse and His Boy, this student commented, “Well, I found this one a little bit racist.” The other students jumped to Lewis’s defense with well-meaning but well-worn excuses—“He lived in a different era with different attitudes about race and other cultures.” Too often we’re afraid to question ourselves, afraid that if we acknowledge something troubling we open the door to undermining our whole belief system. I, too, a lifelong fan, found myself parroting this same line of thinking: “We need to read this in its historical context.” After class, however, I went back to the text,...