Problems in a Galaxy Far Far Away… Gallifrey!

Toxic masculinity is a concept that has been gaining increasing attention over the last few years in pop culture analysis and political commentary. With the rise in global illiberalism reaching record highs in the form of BREXIT and President Trump, the issue of Toxic masculinity seems rather central to understanding the current state of things.

Our world is currently suffering under the weight of too many men and boys having been raised to strictly follow the Apollonian virtues, and consequently an Apollonian model of masculinity. We have raised these men to seek might, and conquer every challenge that stands before them through strength, grit and determination. These ideals leave no room for men to express their emotions, no room for men to quietly contemplate how they might develop themselves more fully.  Conversely, we have routinely mocked the Dionysian man. More specifically, mocked him as a role model for the masses. We accept that some fringe, artistic and dangerous men that transgress social and gender norms bring us fantastic art and music. But we do not allow them into positions of power or true authority in our cultures. These men are too weak, too effeminate in their connection with the ‘softer’ virtues to be trusted to do what is right and ‘necessary’ should the time come. We can see this worrying trend reflected in much of our modern pop culture. We have far too few silver screen mainstays that express anything resembling a balance between these two virtue sets. We have not allowed any semblance of synthesis in these models of masculinity to be included in the collective consciousness of generations of boys and men. This is where Poe Dameron and The Doctor come in as representatives on this issue in the current pop culture zeitgeist.

The fan backlash at the most recent Star Wars film should not be news to the majority of you. At the time of writing there is a 40 per cent gulf in review scores (90 – 50 per cent) between critics and fans respectively. Similarly, when Jodie Whittaker was revealed as the 13th Doctor there was significant backlash from elements of the Doctor Who fan base. This unrest over The Doctor’s new-found femininity has reared its head once more following the recent Christmas Special. In both instances gender and diversity issues were key talking points on both sides of the debate. This isn’t the work of those much maligned MRAs or regressive men needing to hold onto patriarchal dominance of the media (ok well it might be in some cases – but here is one argument from a different perspective). It is a symptom of a much larger and much more sympathetic issue about men and masculinity in contemporary media.

One of the key features of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ that ‘right wing’ fans have condemned is the ‘continual’ humiliation of Poe Dameron. Every time Poe tries to take action, he is shown not only to be wrong, but often he makes matters worse through his attempts to ‘go in half-cocked’. Now fans have said that this represents a gender equality conspiracy, one set to destroy the traditional male ‘action-hero’ archetype and render him useless. Further, the same fans argue that destroying this particular vision of the male empowerment fantasy betrays the Star Wars brand. However, I would contend that it is a valiant attempt by director Rian Johnson to highlight the need for his Apollonian poster boy to learn the softer and more deferent virtues of the Dionysian man. It is worth noting that by the end of the film Poe has begun to see this himself. Towards the end of the third act, Poe is offered an opportunity to seize a decisive victory by a true male hero, another character similarly rounded through experience and defeat, if he is willing to recognise what he needs to do and to act against his ‘guns blazing’ instinct. This is an important step forward in our portrayals of masculinity as Star Wars is not only a mega-blockbuster film that acknowledges the value of the Dionysian virtues, but also a film that demonstrates that these virtues are best utilised in harmonious conjunction with the Apollonian virtues.

All of this however, has been learned before by another Sci-fi legend, The Doctor. Since the return of Doctor Who to television in 2005, the character has grown an enormous amount. We have borne witness to the Doctor in his most heroic Apollonian moments (think Burning Galifrey to save time) and we have seen the character come to personify charm, creativity and heart (think setting up an alternate universe version of himself just to love Rose). All of this, and a wonderful rainbow of shades in between, have blessed the successive series of The Doctor’s modern run. This is why it stings so much to see young boys lose such an important touchstone in their development. This is not to say people cannot have role models outside their own, race, gender, or religion – it merely acknowledges the well accepted fact that we identify far better with people who more closely resemble ourselves across all of these axes.  We have only just begun to see Hollywood accept the need to show more balanced male role models. To then lose The Doctor, the best example of this from within our contemporary pop culture, is most certainly a blow to the movement that calls not for additional male role models for men and boys, but rather cries out for better quality male role models is certainly a significant blow.

In 1994 the Australian Psychologist Stephen Biddulph published a book simply called ‘Manhood’.  This book was largely aimed at translating the works of Robert Bly into an Australian bloke’s context through Biddulph’s own work and experience as a psychologist. In ‘Manhood’, Biddulph talks extensively about fathering, and more explicitly the increasing phenomenon of under-fathering in young men and boys, focusing on the impact that this has on their development throughout their lives.  One of the key messages raised by Biddulph, is that young men and boys need ‘strong well-rounded male role models’ in order to flourish as complete and whole human beings. Biddulph acknowledges the integral role of mothers and female role models (teachers, aunts E.T.C.) in shaping and influencing male children, but ascribes the central role in the development of these male children to father figure/s.  In the terms of this argument it seems evident to me that Biddulph is calling for balance between the Apollonian and Dionysian elements in raising young boys and men. This is as true now as it was when he originally published ‘Manhood’, perhaps even more so.

The reactions held by the right-wing fan base to both the Star Wars and Doctor Who franchises contribute significantly to the destructive way in which we view male role models. If we do not take significant and immediate steps to rectify this imbalance we risk irreparably damaging another generation of young men through reckless and one-dimensional portrayals of masculinity in pop culture. This argument is not always articulated well, or even articulated at all, however when it is, and when it is expressed properly with respect and thought it can be the spark that lights the fire of change.

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Interrogations

So, over the course of the last year, whilst I have not been writing, I have not let my mind sit and go to mush. I have been devouring books. In multiple formats; both traditional, bound, fare and also audiobooks. Between the two media I have racked up in excess of 40 titles during 2017.

I’m a little proud of myself – my goal for the year was half that number.

These titles have ranged from Game of Thrones novels through to Guy DeBord and Stephan Molynuex and I am incredibly pleased with the intellectual results of this meandering. It has allowed me to develop in ways that I would not have thought possible 12 months ago. To critically analyse ideas and arguments in a manner in which I had not previously in my life.

When I was younger I was a prolific reader – primarily of pulp and high fantasy, Eddings, King, Jordan etc. This habit seemed to drop off during university as my reading became thoroughly directed towards my study – video games seemed a far more appealing abnegation activity after hours of reading heavy history textbooks. This is the first year since I started my very first tertiary qualification that I have found reading for fun to truly call to me again.

It is from this vantage that I have spied a particularly troubling phenomenon. Now I certainly will not claim to be alone or even early in this observation.  However, it has troubled me in increasing amounts as the year has progressed to see that those who I would consider intellectual peers are far less interested in diversifying their scholastic intake as they are with shoring up their ideological holdfasts’.

To expand – Earlier this year I mentioned to a work colleague – who until this time I had thought very highly of. This colleague had certainly impressed me with their ability to hold a conversation on just about every progressive subject matter – up to and including some of the more far out nutbaggy global conspiracy trains of thought – Rothschild dominance and all that. I was shocked, however, when I mentioned to this colleague that I was ½ way through Milo Yiannopoluos’ ‘Dangerous’ to be immediately inundated with pressure to explain why I had helped finance a hate campaign.

I tried to explain that rather than react to media pundit interpretations of Milo’s writings I was keen to interrogate the subject first hand in order to circumvent bias. Having been thoroughly convinced of the media bias in my country by the shameful reaction we have had to Cassie Jaye’s ‘The Red Pill’. This colleague waxed lyrical for nearly a full 10 minutes about the various logical fallacies in Milo’s work and the many ways in which he was entirely unworthy of my patronage of his literary endeavours. When I pushed this colleague as to how they were so knowledgeable about Milo’s positions and writings they began to reference several 2nd and 3rrd hand sources of response to the material.

This was the moment that my internal alarm bells kicked into high gear.

I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident across this year. Sadly it was not. Several members of my intellectual exchange communities have taken great pains to ignore and implore others to ignore large swathes of the emerging fields of argument, particularly in the conservative cultural analysis space. It seems that the echo chamber effect that has been oft discussed has begun to migrate from being solely the province of the anti-intellectual class within this country and take disturbing and fascinating route within the intellectual class as well.

I cannot begin to express how scared this makes me.

Whilst I cannot claim to be well and proper OG in my antipathy for this particular issue – having spent far too many hours of the last decade blissfully connected to the hypereality of the MMORPG sphere to feel at all secure or legitimate in such a position. I can certainly say that this last year has done a very great deal to convince me that I was right to make the swap from comfortable and safe intellectual wandering to ‘transgressive’ and ‘problematic’ inquiry.

We as a society need to spend more time focusing on ideas and arguments that challenge us in real and meaningful ways. Rather than allowing ourselves to apathetically seek out news sources and public intellectuals that reflect and shape our opinions and perceptions along lines we have already set for ourselves.

We don’t all need to – by virtue of literary patronage – finance right wing nutbags touring our country and inciting civil unrest – but certainly we do need to spend time engaging personally and legitimately with all of the legitimate arguments that are being presented to us. Failure to do so will leave us as out of touch with the reality of the intellectual space that we inhabit as the Tsars of Russia in 1913.

We need to allow ourselves to be made uncomfortable by the ideas and premises of those who we wish to debate and convince. We need to allow space in our personal echo chambers for dissent and synthesis through this dissent into a greater intellectual understating of the true reality that we all inhabit.

So this is my challenge to the few of you that are still here after all of that. Go out and read, read widely and read politically. Read left and read right. Engage honestly and completely with both sides of this space. Because we are living at the edge of history in this country, things are changing in ways and through means that we have never experienced as a society or as a race. It is at this critical juncture that we have  people of robust and thorough intellectual grounding to help round out the public discourse that we are exposing the masses to.

Do not be cowed by the dissenting voices and remember always the famous Aquinian quote, “Hominem Unius Libri Timed” …..

“I fear the man of a single book”

Breaking Pt.1

Hey team – long time no see. I have been rather snowed under in my personal and professional life of late and so haven’t had a bunch of spare time to sit down and really go through my thoughts on a bunch of stuff – but I have been taking notes in my ‘ideas pad’ so there is a lot of content that I have stored up for when I get back to steadier seas. 

Anyway what follows is something I’ve been thinking about for about a year now – so I hope you enjoy. 


The Brave Bothan.

1.
The lights swirled around me and the decadent scents of the carnival filled my nostrils almost to bursting. The melodic thrumming and crooning of the entertainment blocked out almost every other sound below a moderately powerful shout. The occasional whoop or excited scream broke through the haze of sound and pulled me back to reality. I sat, motionless, gazing out over the festivities; letting the charged atmosphere wash over and engulf me. But despite that sense of immersion a part of me maintains its distance. Part of me knows that these mortal delights are fleeting, temporary – only here to distract the narrow minded and I cannot allow myself to fall prey to such petty distractions; not whilst on such an important hunt.
That all too human urge to hunt had been welling in me for days, weeks even to the point where it was overwhelming, unbearable. I knew that I must satiate this urge tonight lest I fall into a melancholic pity. I scanned the the crowd below. It had an almost intelligible rhythm like a single organism, breathing and pulsing to a heartbeat that could be neither heard nor felt, but intuited if one had the mind or the stomach for such insights. 
At this point I considered the welling sense of disquiet gnawing incessantly and the back of my consciousness – that growing anxiety that could quickly dull my senses if I let it and ruin the hunt. I pushed it back, locking it behind the barrier of the task at hand, forcing myself to renew my appraisal of the crowd, to focus on finding a point that I could meaningfully engage. 
Across that undulating sea of base pleasure, noise and light that held the crowd enthralled I finally sighted my mark. Short cropped hair, dark as roasted almond flowed from her head bouncing and jostling as she followed the rhythm filling the arena. She disappeared below the surface of crowd momentarily, not being of particularly notable height, only to reappear and – despite the considerable odds against it – turned to face the stand that I was perched in. Knowing better than to give myself away by averting allowing myself to flinch I held her gaze, knowing full well that the darkness of the stand would likely mask my eyeline. Still; the anxiety in the back of my mind latched on to this moment and swelled with renewed vigour – what If she had seen me? 
My hunter’s sense forcibly culled the anxious question as my mark turned her face back to the stage – preventing further detriment to the mission. I moved, not wanting to waste time or risk my mark glancing back once more. 

 2.

I pressed my way thought the throng weaving and dancing to avoid covering myself in the stench of their collective perspiration and intoxication. My purpose was clear – my mind set, my mark sighted. Down at ground level the sensations of the carnival were amplified and a part of me acknowledged why so many people found these events entertaining. I noted this for use later and pressed on. As I round a ‘corner’ in the crowd I once again found my mark. Her dancing clear and distinct from those surrounding her and pressing each other inward towards the stage.

….. More to follow. 

I like the Dickensian and Lovecraftian model of serialised releases of a short story chapters. I don’t expect that this will be every post I make for the next little bit but I want to pepper the rest of this story out over the next couple of months, so I hope you all enjoy the GOT style wait. 

Until next time, thanks for reading. 


The Good Side of Bad

So I was flicking through the rather extensive selection of film analysis channels I subscribe to on YouTube the other day – when a previously unnoticed commonality occurred to me. The proprietors of all these channels were horror movie fans. This seemed strange to me –I have certainly always felt that there were not a great many people passionate about Horror as a genre. My experience has always been that it was a struggle to find people to enjoy a good scary movie with. However my selection of YouTube channels seemed to suggest differently. Now at this stage I must stress I have never searched YouTube for horror specific content – not trailers not analysis nothing. All of my film analysis channels had been found on the back of their intellectual rigor – not on common interests at a genre level.

 Now I don’t mean to create unnecessary sectarian thought in the world – but I don’t think it to be a particularly contentious thesis to forward the notion Horror is a largely underappreciated genre or at the very least still considered ‘niche’.
I wanted to spend some time today expounding upon my take on reasons you might like to try a Horror film if you have yet to do so.

1) They come from a moral history – Now despite appearances the history of the modern horror film actually is ne of teaching moral lessons. Much like the darker Grimm Fairy Tales of yore the re-emergent horror boom of the 70’s and 80’s, which began with the success of Halloween, was founded on traditionally Christian principles. In fact, within the Horror subculture rather a great deal of fun is poked at the fact that the sure-fire way to know who will die in a film of this era is to see who engages in recreational drug use or premarital sex. This tradition stretches as far forward as the 2013 remake of ‘The Evil Dead’ where the main character’s drug use is used to both literally and allegorically mask her possession by the devil. In traditional film and story telling we are expected to identify with the protagonist and inherit his/ her moral code. In Horror – we are meant to see the actions of the victims as cautionary tales of morals not to enact or inherit. This level of moral story telling is largely absent from modern film making – which is rather a shame given the rich history that cautionary tales have within the wider human culture. From The Little Mermaid’s feet feeling like walking on glass – to Santa beating you with a cane if you were naughty story telling in the modern era would lose a great deal if we sacrificed the horrific.

2) They are a test bed for new directors – Horror has survived into the modern era because it is very cost effective. I cannot overstate how cheap horror films can be to make by compassion to the goliath budgets of the summer blockbusters of The MCU. As a result of this directors that get brought on by studios with little experience are often given these smaller projects to helm and cut their teeth on. A perfect modern example of this is James Wan. Do you like the riveting return to form of Furious 7? Thanks James Wan’s excellent directorial skills for that. James started his studio film making career with the first three instalments of the Saw franchise. He continues with Insidious, Sinister and The Conjuring. All of these films were financial smash hits. So he was given the reigns of a much larger and weighty project – Furious 7. This is not an uncommon career trajectory. Sam Raimi made his name on the original Evil Dead franchise and was given the Toby Maguire Spider-Man run as a result of his successes. If you want to see great directors given the opportunity to shine – support the horror genre. Film is becoming increasingly expensive and studios are not willing to back unknown quantities. Increasingly consumers need to vote with their wallets and horror films provide us a way to taste test a director’s skill at low risk to the studios. If we start supporting this under-loved genre we may see a commensurate rise in great directors as we allow them more chances to show off their creative flair.

3) They help develop a health relationship with fear – Horror films are primarily about making the audience feel as disempowered as the victim characters. Their success relies, largely, on the audience buying in to the narrative stakes of the script enough to feel genuine fear for these characters on screen – or even – fear at the possibility that the reality they are seeing might be one with that which they are living. This sits in stark contrast with the norm within the modern film industry. All too commonly films are about creating false fantasies of empowerment within the audience. Without sometimes being reminded of the stark contrast between these empowerment fantasies and how genuinely disempowering reality can be it is easy to understand where anxiety and fear can creep into one’s psyche. The horrifying truth of modern life is largely one of disempowerment. We continually interact with corporations far larger than ourselves for most of the basic amenities of life and as anyone who has ever come afoul of such a corporate entity can tell you – being held to ransom for water or power by an uncaring unflinching corporation is genuinely disempowering. Horror helps us normalise these fear in the same way the ancient Greeks normalised failure through the tragic play. This historic tradition is again one we should seek in large part to preserve as it helps to normalise the more frightful and precarious parts of our existence.

These are just a small smattering of the reasons I think that horror should be given far more credit than it currently receives. I have been in love with the genre for the large majority of my life and I hope that if you haven’t that this piece has helped shed some light onto why some people choose to explore the darker side of things.

 

Our Inner Child

So recently I have found myself happily involved with rather a remarkable human. This person challenges me emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. They are in a great many way my equal or better and I have spent the last period of my life being rather enthralled by the everyday challenge of rising to this new level of potential they have helped define.

I still remember our first outing – a 6 hour stroll through the cultural district of my city. Exchanging banter and intellectual observations on arts from all eras. This has been rather the tone of the relationship thus far – one of intellectual curiosity and exchange.  It would be in all this – incredibly easier to lose touch with what I consider to be my more joyous side. Not that intellectualism doesn’t bring me joy in it’s own way (or else why would I write this blog for fun) but I do acknowledge that intellectualism can be quite dry at times – and those overly disposed to it’s use equally so. One of the things that I have most enjoyed about the company I have recently kept is the ability to lapse at will back and forth through both the joyously childish self and the more reserved intellectual self.

This has caused me to ponder on the importance of childish joy in the everyday.

I have pondered at length differences in people and particularly how we see them reflected in media. One of the key divisions this pondering ass fixed upon is the emergence of ‘gritty’ media as synonymous with adult media. This can be most easily seen in the tonal differences between ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Torchwood’ and ‘The Flash’ and ‘Arrow’. In both cases the former is the more childishly joyous franchise and the latter the grittier franchise.

All 4 series continually deal with themes of heroism and sacrifice – they all cover off on an extensive range of human emotions; many of which are thoroughly within the negative range. All 4 shows seek to take their audiences on an emotional journey with the characters.

I have always found this to be accomplishable with Doctor Who and The Flash – but rarely so with Torchwood and Arrow. Despite many similarities in production values and target audiences the latter two franchise lack a critical element for me – the heart that childish joy brings to the more successful franchises.

It is in our most dire moments – when the stakes are the highest ( as they frequently are in all 4 series) that joy is the most useful and integral to my personal image of humanity. The fresh joy of our inner child – the dawning curiosity and inner laughter it finds in almost every new situation is what pulls us through our most trying times and helps bring light to even our bleakest moments.

Both the Flash and The Doctor manage to showcase this – in the case of The Doctor sometimes literally as a child – both series show us wisecracking heroes and casts who use humor to lighten the mood when everything else seems dire. Arrow and Torchwood, by comparison, feature an excess of brooding and melancholy.

This same dichotomy is more than likely behind the failure of the DCEU vs the Marvel EU. The former once again feeling like a largely humorless and gritty place whilst the latter manages to capture the elusive but very real and very very necessary childish inner joy that grounds our reality.

So next time you are facing a situation that seems a little more than you are capable of handling just remember the abiding value of joy –  you don’t need to laugh at your circumstances but I guarantee you that in no situation has all light gone from the world – you can always find something to laugh at, something to inspire a fresh sense of wonder in your heart. celebrate-954784_960_720

 

 

Rogue Thoughts

So heads up this piece is definitely about Rogue One; If you haven’t yet seen it turn away for here there be spoilers. Of course feel free to come back and engage with this after you’ve seen it but the discussion I want to have requires a working understanding of the film. 

So before I went and saw Rogue One I had seen this piece by one of my favourite YouTube content creators. I enjoyed the analysis that the video put forward and the evidence seemed to support the thesis. So I was super pumped for this film to be a gritty Blade Runner-esque New Space Opera. What I feel I got however was worlds different to what I was expecting – but it was just as good.

For me at least Rogue One feels like the best elements of the traditional fantasy adventure – particularly the type of narrative I am used to seeing in the pulp fantasy novels in the D&D canon I.E Dragonlance or the R.A Salvatore novels. There is a deeply personal narrative that creates a through line for the protagonist and the audience but also political level sideplots and tie-ins to make the stakes high enough to be interesting. 

The thing I’d really like to draw attention to is the wonderful feeling Rogue One manages to elicit in the way it presents both the build up and eventual diminishing of ‘The Party’. This for me iOS the strongest element of the film. For the first half of the film we see the rebels pulling together the rag tag and unlikely bunch of heroes. The standard assortment of Prisoners, criminals, spies and holy men that typify the pulp fantasy genre. These characters are given scope to bounce off one another for comedic banter and development which is always heartwarming in it’s execution. It feels natural and easy much like the banter around a D&D table does and this helps draw you into the world the film presents. 

At the halfway point of the film we get a shift into the more emotionaly and politically complex subject matter of the film concerning both the protagonist and the political parties within the film. A traditional complication in the three act structure – this serves to round out the characters and show us slightly different and human sides of them – even those that aren’t human. 

The final act is where things take on their most tropey tones for me- I must stress here that this isn’t a criticism, Star Wars as a franchise is responsible for so many cinematic tropes and this film subverts some of the most famous ones that it is very rewarding to see Director Gareth Edwards embrace the full value of the tropes he utilises in this final act. 

With the heroic last stands and sacrifices of every member of the team getting loving attention and individual scoring it is hard not to be sucked in by the majesty and honour of their endeavour. As the team members lay their lives on the line and sacrifice themselves one at a time to ensure the success of the mission and the greater good it is hard not to bring to bear the collective experience of every similar sacrifice we have ever seen committed to film. This is the value of embracing the tropes ion this final sequence, allowing this film to so explicitly reference the traditions of the pulp[ genre that gave rise to it allows these short sequences to be so so much more than what their running time might allow. It really is an ingenious move by Edwards. 

The final great strength of the film I’d like to put forward is the villain. It is not very often that we get as compelling a beaurocratic villain as what we are treated to by Rogue One. Krennic is a wonderfully menacing character that doesn’t fail when asked to stand shoulder to shoulder with cinematic titan Darth Vader. The inclusion of Vader, who is a far more traditionally impelling villainous archetype, would have sunk a lessor villain – he would have been completely overshadowed by the two cameos that Vader makes. Krennic’s insidiousness is so palpable that he still remains compelling despite inclusion of not only Vader but also Grand Moff Tarkin. 

If I have one critique of the movie – it is that whilst it is incredibly structurally pleasing and refreshing to see new ground covered within the Srtar Wars universe Rogue One fails to have anything new or challenging to add to it’s own tradition. Again this is part of why the film is so so good to watch – but it does feel like it won’t quite hold up to the type of analysis that other franchise films like A New Hope are subjected to. Not a huge flaw and certainly not one that impedes repeated viewings. 

All in all the point remains Rogue One manages to be both original and referential in equal parts to incredibly great effect. Whilst watching it I felt the film drawing one he sum of my experience not only in the Star Wars universe but also in fantasy and SciFi more broadly. We finally have an anthology Star Wars film and it has stuck the landing – Bring on the Bobba Fett film!!

Vignettes Of Memory.

So this is a bit of a different one – well not all that different, in that it is an analysis of how a media piece has made me think/ affected my thinking – but it is the first foray we have had on this blog into my love of musical theatre. So I by no means count myself as an officionado of musical theatre but i certainly enjoy the atmosphere of a well staged musical and the things that the medium iOS specifically designed to be good at capturing – I.E. The very visceral styles of human emotion or bombastic larger than life characature of drama. 

One of the musicals I have come to later in life is Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last 5 Years’. I really do adore this piece for a great many aesthetic reasons. I love the choice to never have the two leads appear on stage together, I love the musical callbacks to some of theatre’s greatest hits in the composition, I love the self referential humour and the Tarantinoesque timeline. The thing I love most of all however is the really beautiful way the Musical invites us to think about the nature of memory and time. 

The presentation scene to scene of the musical alternates between the lead character’s perspectives. This from a structural standpoint allows the audience to see both halves of the story and the relationship it details but more importantly it acts as a method for seeing their titular 5 years pass. Magically despite the run time only being about 90-100 minutes it actually feels as if we have lived the whole 5 years with the characters. Both through incredibly clever writing that loops in on itself and shows how the things we love in people can inform the things we hate, or how our strengths are merely the reflections of our weaknesses, it highlights the paradigm of long term memory. We remember long tranches of time as vignettes.

Our moment to moment experience of life is gripping, visceral and totalising but when we remove ourselves and look backwards as the vastness of our own experience it all blends together and only those critical or truly remarkable moments stand out. Moments that become imbued with significance post-facto are brought to the fore and those that lose significance fade into obscurity. This is where ‘The Last 5 Years’ truly shines. It captures this pheminon perfectly. Both in the choice to include highlight moments that are clear in their significance – but also moments that as they occurred or soon thereafter would not likely have been of great importnace to either character and it is the end of the relationship and thus the foreshadowing nature of these moments that makes them important when reflecting back on the time as a whole.

Very few experiences in media feel this human, this alive and this real and it the way that they experience time along with the audience that really brings them to life and makes their pain and their joy palatable. 

When I reflect back over the progress I have made in my life and the mistakes I have made this type of vignette-vision is one of the saving graces of my existence. H.P Lovecraft said that we are only spared from madness by our inability to perceive the whole truth of our situation within the universe. To me this is what our memory is doing with vignette-vision it is bringing into focus only as much information as we need and is pertinent to allow us to learn, grow and move forward with purpose in our lives. 

Time makes fools of us all, remembering it as only as human can is something to be embraced. The fallibility of both our judgement and our memory is a well documented phenomenon and certainly not something that we should become enraged to see portrayed or fearful of. It is human – allow that to bring you comfort and contentment as you take the next step forward in your life – knowing that this too shall pass into vignettes memory to be fogging recalled when it is necessary. 

You Wanted It

Warning this post will contain some fairly adult and sexual themes. If that is not for you – thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you some other time. – The Brave Bothan 

 

So I mentioned some time ago that I had worked my way through Netflix’s Luke Cage, and had been confronted by a scene about mid way through. I didn’t write about it immediately because I wanted to make sure I had all of the information on that scene before presenting my experiences with it.

So here goes – *breathes deeply*

About mid way through Season 1 of Luke Cage there is a scene where series antagonist  – Cottonmouth – accuses his cousin – Miriah- of seducing her uncle as a teenager (fairly explicitly underage) crying out ‘You wanted it’ when she begins to imply that she had been raped.

This scene was so so so very challenging for me. I have been the victim of rape before and so know from personal experience the deep scars it leaves.

This assertion that ‘You wanted it’ should have been immediately and obviously repugnant and evil to me – only it wasn’t. For a shameful few seconds the presentation of the character of Mariah Dillard made me question if in fact Cottonmouth was right and justified in his assertions. It made me question if Mariah had been playing a different game the whole time.

The absolute lurch in my stomach when I caught myself pondering these things was truly momentous. I felt absolutely loathsome – more loathsome than even the character of Cottonmouth. I couldn’t believe that even knowing as I do the pain of those experiences that I had been positioned so effectively by this program and by society more broadly to tacitly accept Cottonmouth’s accusation – if only for a split second.

In the months between the moment I saw that scene and this one I’ve spent many, many hours trying to puzzle out how I feel about it all – to find a way to unlearn the societal values that allowed me to become so monstrous. I’ve read feminist theory and philosophical musings on the nature of sexual violence – I’ve talked to professional Psychologists about the societal conditioning present in that moment and yet nothing has made me feel better or less culpable for thinking that Cottonmouth could have been ‘right’ to say what he said.

This admission isn’t meant to garner sympathy – or absolve me of the guilt of having held that thought for those moments. Rather it is meant to show you readers that even those of us subscribed to liberal and socially progressive ideologies can fall prey to the unconscious bias and privilege that we are stopped in an surrounded by.

Since that moment I have spent hours and hours focusing on improving my continual awareness of the Male privilege I am afforded in my thoughts, words and actions. It is a continual struggle to not only avoid falling into the use and acceptance of this position but also to strive at every moment to ensure I am evening the playing field for all those minoirities around me and within my sphere of influence.

I struggle with the concept that such a realization came through such a revolting thought – that such a vile moment should be what it took to slap me awake from my malaise of indifference but I am incredibly thankful that it has. I cannot unsee, unhear or unthink that moment and so I cannot fall backwards into ignorance of just how susceptible we all are to those types of normalized privileged ideas.

I adore the way that adult media has the ability to teach indirect lessons and particularly that Marvel’s Netflix team are not willing to beat around the bush on issues that matter to our society. Whilst this has been a tremendously challenging and confronting experience it is not one I would forgo if I had the ability to issue a do-over.

I merely implore you dear readers – don’t let it take such a horrid shock to wake you as it did me. There are people around you every day being oppressed by ideas and actions that we consider normal – that we let ourselves believe because it is convenient to do so and society has allowed us to do so for a long period of time. Live the change we all want to see.  Make sure that even inside the privacy of your own head you hold yourself accountable to the highest ideals of a progressive agenda.

Be better than me.

Meaningless Language

So unsurprisingly for someone who writes a blog for fun; I adore language. Language to me is the measure of human achievement. I don’t mean disrespect to the visual arts but I have never had the same level of buy in with them personally as I have experienced with and through language.

Language to me serves as the means by which I can experience lives other than my own – and also allow others a window into mine.  This sharing of souls is central to my experience of art, love and life. I would be a radically different and arguable reduced human were the ability to engage in this conduct to be taken from me.

One of the highest pursuits within language for me has to be the trial of capturing the experience of love. For many people love is the highest of emotions and the motivating factor behind so much of their lives, myself included. Be it self love or external love – love is the driving force behind so much of my experience of life on a day to day basis.

One of the easiest way I learned to try and express my emotions to those around me was through song lyrics. For almost as long as songs have existed less gifted folk have borrowed them to express themselves better to those they care for, or seek to. As an aside my favourite way of thinking about this sentiment is actually in a  borrowed line from Motion City Soundtrack’sLGFUAD

 It’s the only way I have learned to express myself around other peoples’ descriptions of life.

But this is not a full proof method communication sometimes things are too deeply personal or complex to be phrased in another’s words.

I remember the first time I ever heard ‘All This and Heaven Too‘ – by Florence and the Machine. The beauty of it astonished me. It was as if someone had captured my exact thoughts on the difficulty of truly expressing one’s love and the elation of making progress toward it. One segment has always stuck in my mind:

No, words are a language
It doesn’t deserve such treatment
And all of my stumbling phrases never amounted to anything worth this feeling

Few who hear Florence sing would ever describe her lyrics as ‘stumbling phrases’ the beauty of her art is almost immediately apparent. It has always been this that resonated most strongly with me – the thought that even those whose words I borrow to express myself in lesser ways struggle with the enormity of love – struggle to truly capture the tenderness and care that passes in the quiet moments of the world.

I adore the concept that even those mighty muses of our modern world also feel that very same struggle as I – it is incredibly humanizing and empowering to realize that the language of emotion is entirely universal and humbles all members of the race in the exact same ways. It is one of the reasons I consider language to be the highest expression of humanity.

However you choose to express your love – whatever language or words you use, you will struggle. Embrace that struggle, it is what links you to the collective emotional existence of the race. it is this shared burden, this shared weakness that makes love such a beautiful, personal and unique thing to any number of people either alone or together. By embracing that reality and holding it tight to yourself, by understanding that even in the heights of language words have not yet been penned that can capture and bring into the R real space your love, your emotion you can find the freedom to try -the freedom to fail in the most charming of ways.

The important thing is that through the simple act of trying you will bring more love into the world – you might not capture the totality of your experiences with love every time you try to but each little excavation you make – each little piece of that love you do find the words for and bring into our shared reality makes our world a little better. So keep trying.

‘Hidden’ Morals

So here is a challenge; without using the internet remember the moral of Disney’s Aladdin. Not the love story plot but the didactic moral….. I’ll wait.

So I rewatched Aladdin over the weekend and was fairly flawed by the poignancy of the message which, for me at least, had been subsumed in my memory by the plot. The struggle with identity and feelings of self worth is something I have obviously covered on this blog before and so it was astounding that I hadn’t landed on Aladdin as a talking point before.

From very early on we see Aladdin and Jasmine struggle with feeling trapped by societal conceptions of their identity and roles within the world. Both characters feel that their station in life denies them the freedom and opportunities that they crave. Now this is very touching stuff and the plot points about breaking free of societally assigned roles is also very important but the bit that I want to zero in on the the middle and final act tension in Aladdin’s character. The tension created by wishing to be a prince.

Al sees this wish as his only way to catch the eye of Jasmine and win the freedom he craves but very rapidly we see that not only does this metaphorically and literally trap him further it also poisons the very thing he sought. Al becomes unable to be free in himself. Lying about being a prince traps him in a cycle of lies that he cannot see an exit point form. All his friends tell him to come clean but for him the truth is no longer an option.

Once the truth is forced on him, by a very canny princess, Aladdin is shown that those around him will accept him for his internal value and love him all the same. Jasmine doesn’t rebuff him and the Sultan is won over by his courage and kind-heartedness that he changes the law to allow Aladdin to marry Jasmine.

It struck me that the struggle shown in Aladdin is one we all face at various stages in our relationships; particularly at the genesis of new romantic relationships.  It is incredibly tempting to try and be the person your potential partner wants you to be. To make minor editations to your likes, personality and tastes to be more appealing to someone who you want to impress. But here there be dragons dear reader, here there be dragons. As we see in Aladdin, lying begets lying. You will likely never be happy being someone else – just to be ‘loved’.

The person the partner ‘loves’ at that point isn’t you. At best it is the you you wish you could be. That is a fate worse than death – the constant and pervasive insecurity borne of not knowing if the truth were to come out if the person by your side would stay there.  The thing that makes this nightmare truly horrid though is the knowledge that you put yourself in that situation that it was a lack of courage or self belief that has condemned you to fear.

Fortunately the solution is one we have discussed before. Love yourself. Love yourself deeply and fully and know that, like Aladdin, you too are truly, uniquely and immensely worthy of being loved by others. I accept that this isn’t always simple or easy, I too still struggle here. But the best thing you can teach yourself is self love, it is a habit, you can make it easier by doing it more often. Tell yourself every day that if Aladdin is worthy of love so are you.

Obviously this type of thinking applies later in our relationships as well. Whenever we feel compelled to be a bit different, to be more like everyone else. Stay strong stay in love with the real you. The you that only you really know. Nothing and no one is worth compromising that for.

Importantly always remember that those that love us, like Jasmine loved Aladdin, will forgive us for our foolishness and embrace us in our honesty. Take those opportunities to reconcile your exaggerations and half truths, the things you’ve said to please a lover or a friend with the real you and you will be happier and freer for it.

Remember – you are worth loving for the wonderful mess that you are.