Happy Day.

Hey, I won’t wish you a happy Halloween, but a happy day in general I hope you have.

I think I posted about this last year, but honestly I don’t remember what I said. I doubt anyone else does either. (Let’s be real, blog posts aren’t things that get revisited again and again like YouTube videos.)

I’m not a huge anti-Halloween person, but it’s the only holiday besides Dia de los Muertos that I wish didn’t exist.

Still, I’m seeing some other Christian bloggers saying Halloween is an opportunity. Since there’s pros and cons to this, it might be fun to explore both.

Let’s start with the cons:

Many elder adult Christians, and some younger ones, don’t like Halloween because, obviously, people over-hype it. And there is not getting around that many people do celebrate the wrong things.

Fifty years ago, celebrating your inner monster, or witch, or whatever, would have been appalling. And for a good reason. Those things are Evil.

Witches are not cool. I don’t care what movies say.

Monsters are not good. They are called monsters for that very reasons. They always murder, destroy, and pillage. (Sometimes there’s a bizarre sexual part of it too.)

Hey, I don’t care if I tick any monster lovers off by saying so. Facts are facts.

But Christians hate Halloween even more because so many of the things are directly or indirectly satanic. Demons, devils, black magic, superstition. Heck, whether you buy it or not, the concept of these things is at least bad. (Again, sorry.)

I’m explaining the position, I’m not taking it, yet.

My father also hates that a lot of the church now does things on Halloween because he sees it as compromising with the world. Trying to be cooler, more relatable, and not party poopers.

Frankly, I doubt the world at large cares whether we boycott Halloween or not, but our friends might. I’ve never lost a friend over that, but I do get some strange glances and I find people just don’t get why I could be so uptight.

So, in defense of what is definitely the more awkward position, let me say to everyone who is okay with Halloween, go easy on you Christian friends or family who don’t like it.

We have a lot of reasons to, and we don’t explain all of them because we know it sounds weird. When we do explain, usually no one gets it.

Which would be okay, except in my case it can make your own relatives roll their eyes at you, and that stings.

Even if you are Christian and celebrate Halloween for your own reasons, don’t call the people who don’t legalistic. (That’s biblical, by the way.)

there’s a lot of negative things about Halloween that even non-christian parents are concerned about, and there’s plenty of creeps out there on Halloween to justify being cautious about it.

There are real live people who are involved int he occult and who celebrate Halloween for that reason. It’s not pretty, and I don’t even know how common it is, but the fact is, Christians are’t the only ones who can be weird about the day.

That said, most of us don’t know the people on the other end of the spectrum, but we do know Christians. So I’m talking about that.

Christians may just feel Halloween has too many bad connotations, and can’t in good conscience condone it. They may also know people who, while they aren’t in the occult, do take the death and spooks side of Halloween way way too far, and that’s pretty weird in of itself. Christians don’t want their kids to think that’s acceptable.

This is totally reasonable.

So that’s one side of the issue.

The other side is that Halloween, whether we like it or not, exists. And we can either put about it and freak out that the devil gets a whole day to be celebrated (ahhh!!) or we can suck it up and make the most of what opportunities we have to connect with people in healthy ways through the day.

I mean, handing out treats isn’t inherently evil. Netither is wearing costumes. Neither is having a party, and having wired lightning and crazy decorations.

I’ve done some Church hosted trunk or treats (like trick or treating, but with cars instead of houses) and I had fun and got a lot of candy. (Not always candy I liked, but I’m a picky candy eater.)

My Christian Halloween experience was mostly different just in that most people didn’t dress up as witches, ghouls, or whatever. One guy did wear a viking-like dress. But I’m pretty sure it was a joke. (Some guys do have that sense of humor right?) We dressed up as angels, princesses, historical characters (me,) presents, and even a banana.

Also I believe the decor was more harvest oriented than spooky.

I honestly don’t think that’s wrong. Taking out the negative elements of Halloween and leaving the positive is perfectly within Biblical precedents. And it’s not a discountable ministry tool. Plenty of parents don’t like the idea of their kids going to strangers homes. a family friendly event at a church makes  a lot of parents feel safer about their kids doing the costume and candy gig.

However, I personally don’t celebrate the holiday in any form.

I don’t think it’s a sin to take the more proactive route, but personally I feel no need.

The fact is, even if you redeem the day, you still have to face the fact that it originated as something bad and pretty messed up even; if you study the history of it.

It’s god to redeem a bad thing into a good thing, but the Bible makes no secret of the fact that it is far better never to have had the evil in the first place.

Broken bones can heal stronger than they were before, that doesn’t mean you should try to break them.

So, basically the good in Halloween is all a patch up job. Not wrong, but not as good as the day being totally pure to begin with would be. And that’s why I treat Halloween like any other day, because in the wider scope of things, every day is from God. And eh’s not hindered by what men do on it from blessing the day to His purposes. (Why be God if you can’t ignore what the enemy is doing in one place in order to do something better in a different place?)

I’m well aware that if more than five people read this, I’m definitely going to get both sides of the debate here.

And hey, you could think I’m still being too lenient, or that I’m being too harsh; but, much as I like being in the right, I have to admit that the Bible itself would tell me that this day is open to being redefined.

So, in whatever way you wish to do that, here’s to all of us trying to do good today.

Until next time–Natasha.

Propaganda.

Do you know what freaks me out? How I can’t watch anything now without being concerned about propaganda being slipped in.

Seriously, it bugs me.

Well, one person’s propaganda is another person’s truth; or at least it’s what they believe is true.

Propaganda: information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

Originally from a Latin phrase meaning “spreading the faith.”

Obviously propaganda isn’t always bad. Anyone who believes in something will spread it around.

The only problem is when propaganda is spread around under the name of fact.

I could say it is a fact that God exists. But I can’t prove it; and no one can prove He does not exist. It’s a matter of belief (and evidence.)

Evidence is never fact until  it’s been confirmed that your interpretation of the evidence is correct. Like in Legal Cases. Or in a detective novel, a good detective never says who did it until they are certain the evidence is irrefutable. Then the guilty party inevitably does something to prove them right.

All this being said, I guess I have no right to complain about propaganda in media and entertainment. To make a piece of art devoid of propaganda is nearly impossible.

What does bother me is when it’s propaganda I don’t agree with.

I guess the only thing to do would be never to watch anything ever again. But I doubt I could go through life doing that successfully.

Still, isn’t it kind of sick that I can’t watch even children’s shows without worrying about some sexual orientation propaganda being in it.

OF course, I’m realizing that that is widely accepted as fact now. That I’m gong to be seen as a bigot for having a problem with that.

cause that’ always the hide road, isn’t it? Call anyone who disagrees with you a bigot and put a label on them so you can shut them up.k

I won’t say that you can believe whatever you want. The people who say that don’t really mean it.

When was the last time you heard someone say “believe whatever you want” about Racism.

“Yeah, believe on race is better than the other, that’s fine. It’s your personal truth.”

Or what about slavery? Yes, slavery is okay as long as you believe it is.

(Yikes, if someone only read those last two lines I could be really misunderstood.)

Okay then, so not everything is open to personal belief. Clearly Racism is wrong. Slavery is wrong. It’s wrong because we as a society have moved beyond that.

Or was it always wrong? Even when society was practically built around segregation? Or slavery.

Clearly enough, unless humanity is suddenly more enlightened than it ever was, society in general can’t decide right and wrong.

Now, most people would not say society shapes their views. But many of them, if they looked back, would see that the people they grew up around, and the things they watched and read and were taught, are still what they believe now.

People may think it’s even noble to believe what they do. Like believing in homosexuality. It means their open minded, and not biased. Those people would also do well to examine themselves more closely.

Because,whatever the belief is, believing it because it makes you a better person in the eyes of the world is the wrong reason to believe. And I would say that about my own faith too.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house where if you had doubts about the faith, you could express them and not be shamed for it. My mom would tell me we all go through times of doubt. I wouldn’t have to feel like I was the only one who had questions.

By and large, that saved me from believing just to get points. I don’t think anyone is ever completely spared from that temptation, but it’s not what motivates me now.

A good question to ask yourself is “If I was the last person on Earth who believed what I do, would I still believe it?”

Any real faith would say “Yes.” Because real faith is not based on other people, or on what you see around you, but on what you don’t see and still know.

The reason I believe in God is because I have experienced things with God that I never experienced with people. People never gave me deep peace, or true joy, but when I became a Christian, I had those things.

You could never convince that was in my head, I’ve been in my head too long to think there’s any peace or joy to be gotten from there. (Some of you know what I’m talking about.)

Only God could explain me finding things I never could find in the world. There has to be something outside the world that can provide those things.

And when you believe that, you have real faith.

Which is not to say everyone who believes that is on the right track, but they are at least being real, and that’s the point all truth starts from.

We all need to be real. We need to admit that some things that ate accepted as fact have never been proven. We need to admit that till we’ve really been tested on something, we don’t know if we really believe it.

Someday you will be called upon to choose a side. It may seem like there’s only one side to be on when it happens, but there are always two. There is always another option. And all of us should decide now which we’re gong to pick.

And stick to our guns. Propaganda or no.

(Propaganda helped me come to my faith, but it was not the thing that drove me to it. There’s a difference from having something beat into your head until you believe it, and actually facing your demons and recognizing them for the first time.)

Until next time–Natasha.

(The cover photo is not intended as a direct crack at Hinduism, it was just the most religious example I had.)

 

X-Men –2

Picking up where I left off…

Aside from the core theme of right vs wrong and forgiveness vs revenge, the movies cover whether people should be able to choose whatever way they want to solve things.

It comes down always to Erik vs Charles. One determined to overthrow humanity, the other determined to co-exist with it peacefully.

If one ignores the evolutionary basis for the whole concept of useful mutation (totally unfounded in real science) I would find the difference between Christ and the Devil in these two points of view.

It doesn’t seem that way at first, but when, inevitable, the question about whether mutants just deserve by birthright to be in charge and to be over all regular humans, is raised. And Magneto declares that mutants are gods among ants. Which he tells Phyro, one easily swayed mutant who joins him. He repeats the idea at other moments, no one ever contradicts him.

But Charles actions are a kind of contradiction. He chooses to protect people. Even if he is more powerful than them, he does not consider himself better than them.

We find out in the fifth film that this was because he could feel their pain. Every single person’s he read the mind of, he could experience their pain, yet without breaking. And once you have done that, it is pretty much impossible to despise them.

Nothing unites human beings more than love and pain. Ideally, it would only need to be love. But now that we all suffer, sometimes what clears away the walls is the realization that other people have suffered the same way.

What amazed me aobut Erik is that in the whole course of the films that covered his backstory and his terrible experiences in the prison camp, he never once seemed to consider that most of the Jews there with him were “ordinary’ people.

Maybe his powers made for a unique kind of torture, but other people were tortured, other people watched their families die, other people were experimented on. Other people lost everything.

Humans are just as terrible to each other as they are to other kinds of creatures.

What’s more, some of the people in prison camps were there for risking their lives for Jews. People who willingly risked their lives for the outcasts. They died for that.

Humanity may be cruel, but it can also be more kind than we have any right to expect in this cynical world we often find ourselves in.

For almost every story of some crazy person taking life there’s another of some noble person laying their life down for others.

How Erik could be so selfish, yes selfish, as to be blind to all that is astounding to me.

How he could feel the injustice of bigotry toward mutants, but not of every bigotry, is just hypocritical.

What would we say of the people who followed him?

Did it make them better? More loyal? More noble?

No, those who follow a bad leader become like him.

Mystique became a cold blooded and vengeful killer who never seemed to think for herself. Phyro turned on the people who were his friends and who risked their lives for him and on Professor X, and he despised them. Angel, ( First Class,) turned on the first real friends she ever had because of the Mutant in that film, and then stuck with Erik’s way at the end of it.

What further amazed me is that none of these people turned back even when they had to fight those they once cared about. They were so willing to give into the darkness.

It was darkness. Erik turned Raven against Charles by suggesting that Charles wanted to control her. Maybe it was true, but Erik controlled her far more than Charles ever did, and she let him do it. Charles at least loved her, Erik was incapable of loving anyone.

(In the end Charles lets Raven choose what she will do. But only because at that point forcing her to do anything would be futile. Giving her her choice was the only way to make things right, but it was not so for Erik. He had chosen already, force had to be used on him, which we see immediately; in contrast to Charles releasing Raven.)

Phyro turned to pride. To thinking he was above mere mortals. The classic struggle that separates superheroes from super villains is whether they see their strength as for service, or for power.

The list goes on, but you get the idea.

What of the actual bigotry exhibited by the humans?

Well, it’s important to remember that a lot of the mutants are afraid of their own powers until they get used to them, because things that are different are often frightening. No one likes what they can’t understand until they learn to do without understanding.

But beyond that we are never given an example of humans who are open minded until the fourth and fifth films. There we see the secret agent who seemed fascinated by mutants and not at all disgusted; later we see a mom who seems to put up with her son’s mutation though she is irritated by it. We also learn that some humans defended the mutants in the War.

Even in the first film we see a man going from hating mutants to realizing they weren’t all bad, and that they did not choose to be born this way. The president is even left with deciding to be more lenient with them.

We see other humans who don’t seem to be trying to fight the mutants exactly, but they see their powers as a medical condition. Mutants like Rogue almost agree. (I can’t blame her.)

Strictly speaking the mutants are still human, and Charles, who has felt mutant pain and human pain alike, knows that the only difference is really in our minds.

That’s a two sided coin by the way. Storm admits that she hates humans sometimes because she is scared of them, and we know that is why humans hate mutants.

What someone ought to have told Erik long ago is that you can’t judge a people by what some of them do.

In the Bible, God often rules in favor of the minority. Eight people survive the flood, three people survive the destruction of two cities, a remnant is left of the Hebrews. The reason is, the parts of humanity that make it worth preserving are often int he minority. But they are still important.

In fact, the good of humanity is more important than the evil. The good in us is the reason we exist, it’s what we have left of what we were meant to be; the evil in us is the sign of our decay.

And mutant or not, that decay is present in all of us, and all of us choose whether we’re going to fight it, or give way to it.

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

X-Men

This is actually not a review of the first X-men film, it’s for all of them up to date except for Apocalypse (honestly, I don’t plan on watching that one anytime soon.)

Up till about two months ago I had never seen any of the films, but after liking Spiderman and the Guardians of the Galaxy, I decided to give this other big marvel franchise a shot. Anything would be better than the Avengers, right?

Sooo right.

I’ve seen five movies about X-men, in order, and I would say they were superior tot he Avengers in every way. (Sorry fans.) Though to be clear, I still rate them below Spiderman. Maybe above G of G. (Maybe. But I doubt it.)

Here’s the difference I perceive between the industries.

X-Men movies are almost all origin stories in some way. New mutants are constantly being introduced. We don’t find out Jean’s origin till the third film she’s in, or Raven’s till the third and fourth. But also we have old characters coming back repetitively and learning and adapting, giving it a both fresh and continuing feel. Spiderman may have done better at growing the specific characters, but these films definitely tell you more about them and make you understand the way they think and feel.

Though ostensibly these films are about diversity, bigotry, and acceptance; the real crux of each one never comes down to any one person giving someone else their rights. (except the last two, but that was a little different I’ll get to that later.) AT least for the first three, the crisis of the whole movie rests on what the heroes or villains are willing to do, and what they choose to believe.

In the first film a lot rides on Magneto changing (in a heartbeat) from being willing to mutate ordinary people to being fine with it killing them in the process. From that moment on, he never ceases trying to destroy humanity and preserve mutants. But only the mutants who have no problem with finishing off regular people.

For the ones like Raven/Mystique, this may not be such a hard jump. Her family tried to kill her. (we are never told how or why.) Understandably she’s a bit jaded toward humans and doubts they’ll ever accept her. but she’s made a huge leap. And so did Magneto.

In movie no# 4 (First Class) we learn Erik/Magneto is a holocaust survivor whose mother was cruelly murdered right in front of him because of his powers. Erik claims to want to protect all mutants form the human who would stifle them, but in the beginning, it was her who was exploited for his power, not stifled. And deep down, it’s not really about protecting anyone but himself, as he does not hesitate to kill his “kind” should they stand in his way. He never plays fair, and whenever his old friends need him most to be there for them, he abandons them to their fate. Erik is a broken man who does not wish to be healed but only to inflict his brokenness on every other person he meets. Turning several mutants away from Charles and toward a darker cause.

Then there’s people like Rogue/Marie and Logan/Wolverine. They are both experienced in hurting people either by accident or sometimes on purpose in his case. But neither of them really likes it. Though they suffer a lot, especially Logan, he never seems to like killing or mangling people even in self defense. There’s almost always a look of regret on his face when it happens.

Rogue simply can’t help hurting people because it’s literally her power to drain their energy. She can’t be close to anyone.

Amazingly enough, though mutants like Magneto and Mystique may feel their chance at human it was stolen from them, one might argue in Logan and Marie’s case it was even more so, and for Marie it seemed to be fate, not even a wicked person behind it. Still Marie does not want to dish out what she herself has to take, and neither does Logan.

Which really shows that revenge is a choice. It’s not something you are forced into by being mistreated, but something you choose as a way to dull the pain, or at least to share it, even when it does you or your kind no personal good.

What amazes me is that never once in the films does Charles decide to finally admit Erik is the villain of the movies. And I watched closely to see if Erik ever does a single redeemable act through any of them. Guess what, he doesn’t. (not till the post apocalyptic future of Days of Future Past.) Never. Erik never makes a choice that is unselfish, kind, or merciful. Not even to his most loyal followers. Not to his oldest and only friend Charles Xavier.

There’s no way to gloss over the fact that Magneto is the villain of every single film, but I will give them credit for never making him so dislikable that you aren’t hoping he will turn. You get why Charles keeps giving him chance after chance (an also why he punches him in no#5) because  Magneto is the sort of man who might, in another movie or even in another time, realize that he is on the wrong path. Apparently he does at some point,( we can hope.)

Magneto is actually a hypocrite. He does the same things he is angry at the humans for doing, he does it to other mutants as well as regular people, he has no limit. Sometimes it seems like he actually wants his victims to suffer.

But he has a fascinating effect on a lot of mutants, especially Raven. He seems to respect them and see them for who they are.

But does he really?

More on that in part two.

Until Next time–Natasha.

Word Girl.

Now for a word about a show that is probably unknown to most of you:

Word Girl is the only show on PBS I still watch. Actually I started watching it when I was way too old for that channel. Have you guys ever heard that TV shows can get in trouble for attracting too many people of different age groups than the target audience.

I guess a lot of people might think it’s a little young for me, but there’s something in it.

It’s a bit watered down compared to adult superhero franchises, but Word Girl does hit some points on the head that more “mature” overlook.

You have to be willing to put up with a lot of corny jokes.

Still, my siblings and I enjoy finding deeper meaning in things most would write off as as dumb kid’s show. Some of the characters are more complex than they would seem.

An unusual thing about it is how often Word Girl is just an ordinary kid who makes mistakes, moral mistakes, a lot. But still intends to do the right thing in the end.

What I like about the show is how it is trying to constantly teach kids while being fun. IT works a lot of other things in along with vocabulary. As a homeschooler, watching educational programs was always the way to get to watch TV at all. (Not that I never watched stuff that was just fun.) But my taste is always that I get something from the show.

Anyway, I won’t say that much more aobut it, but I don’t think it’s bad to enjoy even the simplest of shows, (so long as they actually have merit,) it would be kind of snooty to think a show has to be huge to be worth watching.

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

 

Expectations (for the new Justice League.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, there’s still Infinity Wars coming.

Until next time–Natasha.