I ship it!

Since I got tired of writing only super serious life posts, I’m continuing my Christmas break (lol) with a post about one of my favorite things to do in fandoms. You guessed it from the title, I’m a shipper.

I am that kind of shipper who views shipping as an art form, I never multi-ship, and I put hours of thought into my OTPs, and NOTPS too.

Note: For those of you not in on the fandom lingo, here’s a few terms

Ship: Noun: Short for relationship, usually means erotic, but can mean friendship, if you specify it as such. Verb: To support or hope for said relationship, usually by making fan content or subscribing to other fan’s content, but can just be casually enjoying it on the show or book.

OTP: One True Pairing, your favorite couple, that you cannot see being satisfied with any other pairing, think of it as the soulmate of fictional relationships. Initially it meant the one pairing of the source material overall that you liked, but now it more of means the pairings for each character you prefer, so you can have more than one. For example, your One True Pairing for Batman can be him with Wonder Woman, or with Catwoman, while your One True Pairing for Superman can be with Lois Lane, or with Wonder Woman (depending on what DCU you follow) and you can have both, but Wonder Woman can’t be in both, you have to pick, otherwise it’s called being a multi-shipper.

NOTP: The pairing in a fandom you absolutely hate, usually because you like a different ship more, in my case, it’s because my NOTPS are usually abusive relationships that I find horrifying that people ship at all.

Shipping War: When fans take shipping WAY too seriously and attack each other and the author over it. A debate is not a shipping war per sec, but fans will fight on social media and leave hate comments on the opposition’s videos, like it really make s a difference, and riot if the source Creator doesn’t do what they want, it’s all a joke until shows actually lose ratings over it. No rational fan likes shipping wars.

Just like in my previous post about RWBY, I am making the case that caring about this stuff is not only important if you’re a fan, but also if you’re not, because fandoms are influencing your life way more than you realize they are, unless you are in one.

Seriously, I make friends over this stuff, and other people lose friends over it, and that’s just the beginning of the way fandoms permeate the culture. And that’s global, for the most part. Think how Frozen became a world wide sensation in like a month and it still is 6 years later.

If you still aren’t convinced, then hear me on this: Fandom Logic has permeated even our political social interactions… in fact, if I’m being honest, Politics are the original Fandom.

LSU Press :: Books - Politics for the Love of Fandom
This book goes more into the subject, if you’re interested, I just found it while researching this post.

So, that being said, I’ve learned quite a bit from participating in a few, you really see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of people’s art and love of art and values through fandoms.

And shipping is an especially good way to learn this, since as a woman, I find relationships to be pretty much the most important thing there is, and plenty of men I know or know of take the ships very seriously too. Though they tend to blame the overall show’s tone for what they don’t like, while women tend to focus on the characters themselves and whether or not they have chemistry. I, an intellectual female fan, do both.

I had my days of fan-raging out over stuff I didn’t like, and I sometimes indulge that around people who agree with me almost 100% (who doesn’t) but overtime i realized that it fixes nothing, and no one will ever see your point if you just yell at them. I’ve started being able to calmly discuss things with other fans, and actually diffuse it if they get too worked up. Though it doesn’t always work. I do this more with politics, religion, and other real world issues now too, actually, learning about one helped me learn about the other.

There, I think I’ve justified talking about this so seriously enough now, let’s get to the meat of this post:

Shipping: Why Bother?

So, the top annoying things i hear in fandoms about shipping is the self righterous snobbish comments about it not being improtnatn who gets with who, who kisses, and waht not. That we should focus on the plot.

I fine this stupid and concerning for a couple reasons. The first being

  1. Nothing in the story is real, so why does it matter which particular element people focus on? Are you really saying the plot is more “real” than the relationships, because usually the plot depends on magic, superpowers, or a political system that’s not actually in place int he real world, while relationship dynamics are a real thing, more people care about than they do the so-called “important” stuff.

2. Sex, kissing, and all the rest that goes with are important. That’s literally how we get new life, and have a future on this planet, and in a story it works the same way. Strictly speaking, without couples, there is no real continuation or progression of a plot. Stories that don’t develop ships end up in a weird loop, of never changing dynamics. Even freaking Star Trek eventually added ships to change stuff up and that’s one of the most popular sci–fi shows of all time. Dr. Who has a ton of shipping. Shipping changes stuff in ways other plot points don’t. in franchise like the MCU, adding a next generation of kids because of the couples gives you the opportunity to go into themes like legacy, and carrying on a hero’es mission, even when the circumstances have changed. Yo just don’t get that without a romantic subplot to set it up.

Actually, even stories that keep romance out of it usually have a mentor-ship arc, which is basically a variation of a parenthood arc. So yes, I find it quite important.

That said, I don’t think most fans actually hearken to the idea that shipping is unimportant. Some do find it stupid to argue over it.

I think, in one way, they are right, arguing based on personal taste is a colossal waste of time. I think of the shippers of Zuko x Katara vs Zuko x Mai, yeah, I prefer one, but neither is toxic enough for me to argue about it. In that case it is more of a minor annoyance.

But then, if a ship is promoting a lifestyle, mindset, and set of behaviors that is simply wrong, and that may influence what younger viewers think is acceptable in relationships, I think it is the job of viewers and fans to call it out. After all, we contribute to it if we support this stuff. Which is why I find the shippers of Harleyquin and Joker to be quite scary. The tags “EVIL LOVE” are insulting and degrading the very nature of what love is. Love is never evil, if it’s evil, it’s not really love, just a sick impersonation of it. Why would you support such an abusive relationship?

At this point someone usually argues that it’s just for fun. To which I respond “Bullcrap”

People take this stuff dead seriously, and more and more science supports that fiction affects our brains almost the same way non-fiction does, in fact, it effects us more simply because we consume more fiction than reality, in this culture. We’ve substituted local gossip for shipping discussions.

And, if the amount of toxic relationships in the culture is any indication, we really to believe this crap is normal.

It astonished me after watching Naruto, how many fans saw no problem at all with the way the ships ended, even though at least a couple of them are toxic, and most were not developed at all. But the alternative fandom ships were almost worse, making me wonder if people honestly thought this was relationship goals.

I think people do purposely choose to ignore the red flags in these ships and put the best possible spin on it, and hey, it’s a show, so why is it not open to interpretation?

I used to be more lax about that, but after realizing that in my own life, my family and I had made the same excuses for my dad and my other relatives that people make for fictional characters, I had to wonder, is there really a line of reality?

We use backstory to excuse a lot, and in real life, we do that too. My dad uses his own tragic backstory to excuse all of his behavior, even what is not explained by said backstory (and his is a very anime type kind of story too. Not in a nice way.) I have a prime example of what it might be like to live with an anime protagonist post the show. Allegedly, my dad moved on, overcame his trials by his own efforts and hard work, married happily, settled, and had 3 great daughters. What more could you ask for if this was an anime?

Yet, nothing was truly happy in my household, my dad still related to my mom, me, and my sisters in exactly the same way he related to his toxic family. He didn’t ever have satisfaction in his line of work, even though it was something he enjoyed he stressed constantly and complained and abused his employees.

So, I maintain, if a character has unresolved issues and is shipped anyway, it will remain toxic whatever the fandom chooses to believe. And, an author is probably writing from their experience, so it raises concerns about what they think is okay.

One of the reasons I mentioned that I do not like the Bumblebee ship in RWBY (that’s a gay ship between Yang and Blake, two Main Characters) is that I believe its toxic, and since this is the focus on this post, let’s dive a little bit more into why that is:

I said that Bumblebee was pushed to pander to the fans, and that it took the focus off both character’s development, but I didn’t really go into how it actually works. And since it’s hardly addressed at all, this should be short.

The dynamic of Bumblebee is mostly to be gay, and even LGBTQ fans complain about that very thing, I’ve seen it. If we remove that element, all we have left is a few funny exchanges in season 1, a single heartfelt conversation that was mostly Blake being defensive until the end is season 2, absolutely nothing important in season 3 except Yang trying and failing to save Blake from her psycho-ex (which at that pint in time Yang would have done for any of her team), nothing in season 4 at all. A angry gripe session of Yang in season 5 where she blames Blake for leaving her, and doesn’t try to understand until Weiss of all people point sit out to her, and even then she seems hesitant, but sort of accepts Blake back into the team. In season 6, they spend most of it being uncomfortable with all the unresolved tension and changes in their lives, ending it by tag-teaming Adam to death and reassuring each other they’ll be there for each other. Great!

Vol 7 we get more of nothing, except Nora hinting that they are a thing–Nora, mind you, not them–and Yang saying the wrong thing, and Blake being weird about it, and then both of them discussing what’s going on without having anything notable to say about it, I don’t even remember what they talked about.

In vol 8 so far, we have zero conversations, while they disagree on the plan of action, and Yang worries Blake will look down on her for someone vaguely defined reason (seriously, it makes no sense, Blake did pretty much exactly what Yang is doing in volume 5, of course since they’ve never TALKED about it, maybe Yang is unaware of that fact).

Great history isn’t it? The amount of time Yang and Blake actually spend together NOT making each other uncomfortable is… maybe two scenes? Out of 8 volumes. Yeah, this just doesn’t work for me.

Aside from the dynamic, I also put a lot of thought into personality. Like parents and family usually do for their children, you think what will bring out the best in the other person, what they need, and you look at their track record for clues about any pattern they have in relationships.

Yang has a total of zero relationships that we know of, other than a very negative mother-daughter one, a decent Father-daughter one, and a questionable sister-sister one. She’s consistently annoying and angry at all her other friends and doesn’t listen to any of them except Weiss on one occasion. Terrific. (I didn’t dislike Yang initially thought, I thought she was a good character in volume 5, it just got dropped after that).

Blake does have one relationship, or one and a half, under her belt, and that’s actually my main concern. It was an abusive relationship with Adam, the guy who tries to kill her like two or three times afterward. Since that relationship ended (a straight one I might add) she’s been busy running form her problems, and being pretty reliant on other people for her self-care. It takes Yang really beating it into her head in vol 2 for her to rest a little, with help from Sun. And then Sun has to follow her home and risk his life a couple times for her to get that she needs to stop hating herself and trying to be alone.

I didn’t think all this made Blake a bad character, I could relate to some of what she felt, and it was a good story. However, to me, her development with Sun was a crucial part of it. She was learning to talk through stuff with him, not carry it all inside. To open up to help, and be less defensive and sad. It was solid. She also was strangely unhung-up over Adam while she was around Sun.

Once Sun left, Blake goes back to being freaked out by Adam, and Yang doesn’t really make a difference here. They don’t talk about it more than once, and Blake just ticks Yang ff that time. Then after they kill him, Blake is upset but resolved to be better. I thought that was good for her…but then it’s just kind of gone in the next volume and Blake is acting awkward and insecure around Yang…

And she was literally flirting with Sun a week ago in the show’s timeline.

To me this makes it seem way more like Blake just can’t not be a relationship to have self worth, she relied on other people to help her get through things not in a good way, but in a, “If I don’t get this kind of attention, I shut down” kind of way. She makes no move to talk to or bond with the other characters, and she and Yang continue to not work through their unresolved issues. Which seems far more like her relationship with Adam than with Sun, and not what we should be going for if she’s really learned something.

Together, their dynamic seems codependent, when it’s there at all, most of the time it isn’t. Yang has abandonment issues, and she gets mad at Blake for leaving her… that’s never talked about either. And she never admits that’s she pushing her issues onto Blake when she has no right to do so, as Blake never made her any promises to stay, and quite actively pushed her away most of the time. Blake’s whole aura is “don’t rely on me” Yang, like most neglected kids, is drawn to the familiar, hoping someone will make a different choice and somehow heal them, and sets herself up for disappointment when Blake does what people like Blake do, and runs or refuses to talk to her.

Yang is also angry, which is what Blake’s past failed relationship was like, so it hardly seems healthy for Blake either.

Being with someone like your abuser doesn’t fix trauma, it doubles down on it. Even if they are not “as bad”, it’s still poison.

My mom had an abusive father, he’d get drunk and yell at her, I don’t know if he hit her, she’s never told me. But he’d be angry, inconsiderate, and a jerk. Her mom was stable, but had to work to compensate for her several useless husbands, so my mom was left to mother her younger sister and take care of herself. My mom ever needs anyone that much even tot his day, 40 years later.

My dad ensures that you can’t rely on him, he yelled and stormed at my mom, and made fun of her weight, her singing, her personality, and no matter what we said, he wouldn’t stop. He recreated her trauma, and it didn’t fix a dang thing.

I tend to gravitate toward people who are negligent with me, or toxic, only I don’t realize it till later. It’s scary.

That being said, if Yang and Blake were real people, this relationship would be a bad idea, and in my opinion, it would not last. Blake will get tired of repeating the same patterns, she at least seems to learn slightly. Yang never learns, and will likely just go from person to person, unless some serious character growth happens.

If a fan were to say I was making assumptions, I’d retort that volume 1 and 2 establish Yang as a bit of a violent flirt, and in her own words, she prefers to drift “with the flow”. She doesn’t go through much to change that between volume 1 and 6, so… yeah, I don’t think she’s over it. She tends to be disrespectful to all older women she meets, Maria, Winter, the Ace Ops Females, and any others handy, because she has mommy issues. Then she turns to younger women to try to heal that. At least, it looks that way.

Now, I got all of this by actually watching the show and paying attention, and I’m pretty sure the writers down’t do that. No one seems to notice Yang has a pattern, which you’d think it would have to be intentional, however based on my own writing experience,it’s really not. I write character who consistently play off other characters in patterns, without even trying, because that’s how the personality tells itself to me. Yang has been given Mommy issues, she acts accordingly without the writers needing to plan it, we write what we know.

I wouldn’t have to try to give a character Daddy issues, I do have to try to give them a good relationship with the males in their lives. That’s how it is.

So, I spent a lot of time on Bumblebee to show you how this analysis of ships can work, and why it’s important. The level to which you can recognize these patterns in fiction may mirror the level to which you are aware of them in your own life and your family’s.

It’s not coincidence the at the people who hate Bumblebee also give the most thought out critiques about the show overall, usually. They see that common sense is being thrown out along with the continuity.

I notice most underdeveloped ships are toxic, actually, it’ like without the time and effort to think it out, we default to toxicity, because it’s toxic to not put in effort to something.

Bumblebee is like a n archetype for the main problems with shipping. Things are overlooked that should not be over looked, things are excused that are not excusable, and trust establishment is traded for cute fluffy moments, which to me are never cute if there’s nothing there.

Contrast that to a shoujo like “Lovely Complex” where both Risa’s falling for Otani, and her winning of his trust and affection are drawn out to a length that’s believable with plenty of emotional ups and downs along the way, till the climatic moment where they kiss and he returns her feelings, and you’ll just see the difference. It can be hard to re-watch because it rings so true. I’ve felt a lot of those frustrations, and the show’s message that true love never gives up is a good one. It even matches the Bible when it says “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

Fiction is a great way to experience love as we believe it should be, to give ourselves an idea of what should happen if we could love the way we want to.

I find it highly disturbing when people’s fictional love is worse than my real life love experience, mine isn’t so great, but I’ve still been blessed with some real friends and good family members. When I dream of love in the future, I dream of something better.

Another reason I find shipping just to pander to the audience to be a really bad idea. An author ought to be lifting our gazes higher than we’ve been before, to help us see what we should be looking for, even if they don’t know very well themselves, they need to strive for ideals.

You do often end up with the trashy romance novel tropes if the author has no actual experience to back it up, but Jane Austen was single, yet wrote some of the best romances of our English literature, so if you have a keen mind and an observant soul, I don’t think that has to stop you.

Again, effort is everything here.

When I ship character in my own writing, I test it out as a friendship first, I explore the strengths and weaknesses, and I honestly ask myself if I can promote this kind of dynamic to my potential audience. will this become abusive? Is it encouraging an unhealthy attitude toward love? That sort of thing. Once I find a way to make it good, without being too perfect to be believable, I set the wheels in motion to turn it into a romance. When I introduce a character just to be part of a ship (all writers do it) I try to flesh them out so they contribute more than just that to the story, at some point, the ship may not even be the main thing they contribute.

Since I began taking this approach to shipping, I noticed that fandoms have circles of shippers. People who ship just for the sexual excitement, and people who are looking to learn and benefit by the ships, and raw inspiration for their own lives. You tend to find more single people in the first circle, and people who are probably since for a reason, in the second you find more people who have successful relationships, and enjoy talking about them. That’s pretty telling right there.

Some fans ship superficially, and root for one character for no particular reason other than they are hotter, and they like that dynamic better. The “bad boy” “sad boi” or “angry boi’ thing turns them on, ( usually it’s women, if it’s men…normally it’s just how thicc the female is..sadly, there’s some exceptions, but superficial shipping is grossly predictable).

The ones like me and my friends tend to ship more for development’s sake. We wait to see who will be the healthiest, sweetest match, and go from there.

People still argue over the best option, but these debates tend to be more civil, not always, but usually, and we can see the other person’s point a little, because we actually think about the ship from different angles.

It’s like how in real life, when you want to marry someone, you can’t just think of the butterflies,you have to think of finances, family, location, the future, all that. And with the fight person, that can be exciting or at least you will get stronger because of it; with the wrong person, that stuff causes everything to fall apart. (And you may be the wrong person at times).

One thing I no longer ignore in shipping is family. I used to, but now I realize that behavior that is sown into you will come back out in some form or another.

In the MHA fandom, I love Shoto Todoroki’s character because the show takes the time to show how he acts like his father even when he doesn’t intend to, and then he confronts that and changes, proving he is not his father, but giving a realistic portrait of how it is for all of us from toxic backgrounds. On the other hand, we see Uraraka, who has great partners, often acts insecure despite that, showing we still have to choose to benefit from good parents. Both these characters carry that into their potential ships, and to my surprise, I have found fan content that addresses that, plus content from the creator himself has.

There are case where the victim of abuse will not abuse their spouse and kids the same way they were abused, my dad didn’t beat us, for example, but he was still violent in other ways. And usually if it doesn’t come out in the same kind of violence, it comes out in overcompensation the other way in self defense. Leading to neglect, and emotional distance from the family.

With all human efforts to fix things, you have to pay the piper. You aim for one thing, you get it, you lose something else. It’s just how we are, we can’t be everything, only God can love without compromising, and enable us to do so.

Why does all this need to trickle back to shipping? Though. It’s not real, it can’t make us happy.

That is true.

Actually, the best shippers are the ones who don’t rely on ships to make them happy. I’ve done my time looking to fill my emotional void with romance writing, but the older I get, the less it works. I find I am more interested in seeing what I can apply to my own life, and what I can’t. I prefer to write ships that way too. Too cotton candy, and you lose any sense of reality; too toxic, and it ceases to be helpful. It’s not that complicated, but boy does it require effort.

The startling truth that most non-writers don’t know is that writing romance is freaking hard. It’s a challenge, even for subpar writers, to build a whole relationship in a story.

You see, Love, even if it’s in fiction, is never easy. It’s why series like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey start one way, and end another. You can’t write just about sex and feels all the time, romance eventually forces you to look at your own life. even if it’s clumsily done, some element of actual love starts to find its way into any ongoing romance. If it’s longer than one book, or one season, the writer can’t help it, they start to change the story around it.

Love is not stagnant. Sexual love has phases, just like every other kind, and each one is glorious in its own way. It challenges you. The act of sex itself is not really just about physical pleasure, anyone who takes it seriously knows that, it’s about giving, and learning to receive. Learning together. That’s why it makes a good metaphor for love in general, and God compares the Love between Him and US to a romantic love. It’s because it takes you so high, yet it requires all you got to give, or it dies off.

Even in fiction, Love is powerful. It gives people hope to read about it even when it’s not real, because they hope, somewhere out there, it is.

Which is why, we need to be so, so careful what we call a good idea in a relationship. Hint: It’s not choking someone else.

The rise of kinky shipping in fandoms is not something I see as a good sign. and there’s some evidence it’s on the rise in our real world relationship too, to the point where we’re no longer feeling ashamed of it.

Now, I’m not talking a fetish for a particular body part, I don’t really see that as much of a concern, widely. But normalizing violence in relationships, it’s a problem. People other than me notice that kids try to imitate anime, with it’s violent love tropes, and its harmless to a point, but then it’s not.

Plus, I’ve said before I think fiction is where people with unhealthy parents often turn to find something better to base their own ideals on, and it can’t be made light of in that way.

I guess, lastly, I hold even frictional love to be sacred, in a way. The same way fiction that riffs on good parenting is disgusting, fiction that promotes abuse is disgusting. To give glory to something, even in the imagination, that is base and vile is still wrong. In fact, making light of abuse is arguably only helping it continue to circulate. Because I believe in the Bible, I believe Love should be taken seriously, though it’s perfectly fine to be lighthearted about it, if you are lighthearted because the people are happy and trust each other.

This basically became an essay about shipping, but that’s how I roll.

I still have more I could say about this, but that’s enough for one post. Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

My (updated) thoughts on RWBY.

Well, it’s been over a week, and I thought I’d take a break from blogging about my life and instead return to a well worn subject: Things I watch.

Namely RWBY. Volume 8 has been releasing since last month, and will be going on hiatus after this week till February, I hear, so it seems like the perfectly imperfect time to talk about the show again.

I started watching RWBY about 2 1/2 years ago, when Vol 5 was out and Vol 6 was coming in, I think, 6 months or so. I blogged about it back then, and I’ve mentioned it since and used the characters for references in other posts, so if you read that stuff, you probably remember my interest in it… but if you’re new, stick around, this is never boring.

Breakdown

If you don’t watch RWBY, I’ll give you a brief break down. It’s center around 4 girls who are on a team of huntsmen (like superheroes combined with special operatives, typical anime idea), and their quest to save Remnant, their world. The first 3 volumes focus on developing the characters and their dream and goals, and the next 5 focus on world building, and explaining the main conflicts of the story.

It’s been said by many other fans that the show is inconsistent about what those conflicts are. Volume 4 focus on revealing the BIG BAD, Salem, the archetype of evil in the world. The she-devil, basically. The ruler of the monsters that devour people, only humans too, no animals. Volume 5 focused more on the racism in the world because the show tries to be woke (not that I minded the theme if it was consistent), Vol 6 goes back to explaining about Salem and Ozpin, the alleged Dumbledore/Professor X of this world, and their history of a very Magneto vs Prof X kind of struggle, with some Thanos MCU type villain stuff thrown in, and healthy dose of probably the worst mythology of gods I’ve ever seen. It really makes no sense.

I didn’t really mind this too much though, I was still invested up till Vol 7.

But last year the show just took a weird turn, and fans have been arguing since about why it has and who’s to blame and if it can get back on track.

And why should we care?

Because I think the problems with RWBY are ones that reflect our culture overall, and the show is just a particularity cringy example of them, but I see them everywhere, and it’s pretty telling about the mindset people have nowadays.

First of all, the writers do not know how to write. I tried hard to believe they did, after Vol 3, the last one Monty was involved in, and Vol 5, the last one I actually liked the ending of. Partly I had the benefit of getting to watch all of them consecutively, so the slow pace didn’t bother me, I now understand why the older fans must have found it frustrating.

I still maintain that Volume 5 is not the train-wreck everyone says it is for the simple reason that it accomplishes something, it has two story threads that it keeps up with consistently, even if they do drag on in places, and the ending at least makes sense, once it’s all tied together, plus gives us a few emotional moments.

Volume 6 seemed okay to me up until the last episode where I just couldn’t buy Cordovan letting them go, it was too convenient.

Volume 7 however, has the real problems with writing in my opinion.

Now aside from this blog, I write original stories, fan fictions, and papers for college classes when necessary. I read other author’s writing tips whenever I can. I read classics. I watch videos breaking down story structure, tropes, and character development. I don’t agree with all of it, but I’m well immersed in the community and culture of writing, and I’ve personally encountered the difficulties I’ve seen in this show, and others.

So, I don’t criticize writers lightly, I feel it’s tough to be a writer, especially with someone else’s show. But since I write fan fiction, I am pretty familiar with how you convert other people’s ideas into your own story. I’ve gotten very good at it, by trial and error.

All this to say, I did not go from being a fan to a hater willingly, on RWBY, and I think that’s important, because with art, it’s the people who truly want to love it and polish their own skills who should be talking about it, not the people who just want to get what they want. I don’t criticize art lightly.

I have my preferences, but I critique things differently based on personal taste, than based on actually deep flaws. Like, I hate Belle in the Disney Beauty and the Beast, I always have, I don’t think that makes the movie the worst princess movie, I’d argue it’s better than most of the other renaissance movies plot-wise, but I loathe Belle. It’s not my cup of tea. Still, if someone else likes it I don’t question their whole outlook on movies and stories in general.

Versus Naruto, where the people who praise Itachi and Pain and Obito scare the crap out of me. How the heck can you excuse literal mass murderers on the grounds that they “thought they were doing the right thing” especially when Itachi admits he knew it was a horrible thing to do and still did it… ugh.

So, with RWBY, I’m not going to be superficial. Yes, I find some new elements very annoying in the later volumes, but those are not really what bother me, I might even get to like them if the other problems weren’t there, and if the problems weren’t there mostly because of our culture’s very strange approach to shows and content.

You can find whole videos explaining in detail what’s wrong with the new volumes, I recommend the ones by Vexed Viewer if you want the closest to my opinion, and he was not always a hater either, I think. He is mostly fair and doesn’t just whine because it didn’t go how he wanted it to like some other fans I’ve watched.

So, I will just briefly describe what I mean, I can’t possibly be as thorough here as a whole video could be to each separate item, or cover them all.

But I think the three main things that bother me are:

  1. Changing character’s personalities and values and goals completley from vol 1 to volume 8, or even vol 7 to vol 8.
  2. Forgetting the lore established earlier, or changing it to be plot convenient.
  3. Pandering to one part of the fandom, and ignoring the other part.

Let’s start with number 1.

I loathe character inconsistency more than almost any other flaw in storytelling. So, I denied RWBY had changed its characters for a very long time, but vol 7 finally did it for me. Winter was the last straw.

I loved Winter Schnee in vol 3, and if you follow the short stories the company releases, we find out a little more about her, she’s a great character. Also a victim of familial abuse and neglect, she has a lot of traits I could relate to, we’re both the older sisters, we both tried to protect our younger siblings from our parents, an both feel the need to be strong, independent, and not let our guard down easy. We also both have tempers. That was all established with only a few scenes, a great VA (Elizabeth Maxwell is superb), and a little manga detail that is considered canon. Winter is awesome. Volume 7 did something to her I just couldn’t get behind.

I am not going to say I expect Winter to be perfect, I thought she’d probably be loyal to Ironwood to a fault, (I actually wrote fan fiction dealing with just that subject), but what I wrote and believed, is that someone as independent as Winter, who questioned her father enough to abandon her inheritance and join the military, and who is capable of being a top level Atlas Elite, basically the right hand woman to Ironwood, would really be so much of a sheep as to follow all his terrible orders in vol 7’s finale without so much as a word of protest. I also don’t believe someone who spent most of her time at home taking care of Weiss and preparing her to be strong, would immediately turn on her and tell her to run away… and arguably, before Weiss had really done anything worthy of being arrested other than disagree with Ironwood.

I’m sorry, it just doesn’t compute. Winter’s loyal, but that loyal?

Thankfully, vol 8 seems to be suggesting she’ll reconsider, and maybe she can be salvaged, but I still think it’s bad writing to make her such a predictable person when her best trait in vol 3 was being able to show us two very different sides to her in just two or three scenes. I’d say she was one of the best written characters of the show. It’s hard to tell people so much in so little time, I’ve struggled to do it myself. But experienced writers do it all the time, most really good movies establish a character in the first 10 minutes.

Winter is a personal peeve of mine, perhaps, but she’s honestly the least of the examples here. The main cast have much, MUCH bigger issues.

As most people have acknowledged, both Blake and Yang have gone downhill since vol 6. Yang got really good development in vol 4 and 5, and Blake had an actual arc (rare on this show) with Sun, her love interest (more on that in a second) and then vol 6 hit and… something just went off the rails. I didn’t care about the PTSD that much, because it’s not the same for everybody, and not everybody has it the same, but Blake just seemed to forget about the faunas after spending two volumes getting involved in taking back the White Fang. Yang seems to forget about her Mommy issues with Raven (and by the way, she’s still not bothered to tell anybody that Raven is the Spring Maiden, which could be kind of important, since Cinder is going around hunting down maidens and also knows Raven is one. Yang may not know that, but still, if they want to put the relic back, it might be kind of important!) They kill Adam (which was great, I never liked him, though a little rushed I thought) and then volume 7 has them making goo goo eyes and forgetting to ever discuss their unresolved issues. Vol 8 is doing even worse with it so far.

About the ship, I never liked it. I don’t ship LGBT stuff anyway, but I can acknowledge when it’s written better and when it’s not. And this has to be almost as bad as She-Ra’s, but at least one of these girls didn’t try to kill each other.

But they’ve never talked about Yang’s anger with Blake for running off, Blake’s weird behavior about Yang’s arm, or either of their trauma with Adam. I’ve never seen them “Talk” really openly and unrestrained, since volume 2. 2! Yet somehow I am supposed to think they are a good couple? Heck, Weiss and Yang would make more sense if we went by actual communication.

Of course my chief annoyance is that Yang was straight in vol 1 and checking out the boys, while Blake was interested in Sun from that volume all the way up till volume 6. 6! and they dated a couple times. But nope, I’m supposed to forget that and believe she liked Yang the whole time and Yang went from straight to gay in the course of one year with no circumstances prompting it whatsoever.

You know, even if I wrote this kind of stuff, I wouldn’t just change it half way through without any development. In real life people transition from straight or gay due to a myriad of circumstances and steps, it doesn’t just happen. There’s no struggle in this show, no reason for it. It’s just inconsistent. And that is bad character writing.

There are fans who justify it for literally no other reason than that they “need representation” that they don’t get as much as us straight people, so even if it’s bad, they still need it.

Well, first of all, that’s pathetic. I don’t appreciate bad portrayals of Christians in movies just because it’s so rare to find us portrayed at all. Do I need the world’s approval or endorsement of my lifestyle? No.

Second, is it the job of writers and artists to boost the self esteem of their fans? It’s nice when they do, I don’t mind when shows choose to tackle hard subjects because they want to contribute something. But when the fandom is demanding it, and throwing a fit if they don’t get what they want, and saying they are “owed” representation, then where exactly do they get off?

I ask, is it a writer’s job to endorse your personal choices? Or to even care to validate your identity, if you choose to base it on something as flimsy as sexuality or race? Why do they need to do that? They are just trying to tell a story, why does it need to have a political message?

If that is the point of the story, I have no issue, I just won’t watch it if I don’t want to see it. But if the story was initially about something else, and that got added only because it’s “woke” and the fandom clamored for it, then that’s extremely irresponsible of the writers and extremely insensitive of the fans.

When I criticize a show for not doing what I want, I do it because I think there is a standard of morality that every good show has to follow: good is good, evil is evil, truth is important, Love is the most valuable thing there is, Unselfishness is better than selfishness, etc. How each piece of art interprets those themes is up to them, I learn a lot from the differences.

If a political agenda is thrown in there, I sometimes don’t mind if it’s tastefully done, but then there’s Zootopia, something that’s jamming the comparisons down your throat till it’s not a story anymore, it’s one 90 minute long metaphor that I’d have been able to read much faster if it was in book form.

Pandering

This is point 3 also, the writers of RWBY pander to the fans who have a political agenda. They pander to the ones who think race has to be talked about in every single work of fiction, and that Gay Pride deserves to be reinforced in every single show and movie there is.

Which is kind of like saying if every movie doesn’t have at least one romance, it’s bad. And if every movie doesn’t have at least one black character, it’s bad… oh wait, they already do say that.

Yes, because the color of someone’s skin is what decides the quality of their work… oh, wait, that’s racist… then why do black people have to be included? I don’t care if they are because they are good, but why are the races of classic characters altered just to be more inclusive? Isn’t that a bit untrue to the original author’s work? Why should we change it just to appeal to people’s political agendas? You know, that used to be called propaganda.

Not to belabor the point, but RWBY has been doing this for the past 2 years and it’s not surprising that everything interesting about Yang and Blake has been completely forgotten. They aren’t in the story to be characters anymore, they are in it to make the fans happy.

If you are going to ask me why the fans shouldn’t be happy, then let me explain what I mean.

I think pandering is okay if it’s harmless, like Easter Eggs, stuff that doesn’t change the plot, it’s just there to be cute, funny, or show the fans the writers appreciate them. My Little Pony did some great stuff like that in its filler and Easter egg episode’s.

I think listening to criticism that is well thought out and shows an understandinf of the plot and direction of the show is perfectly fine.

But I do not think doing a major twist or change solely because “the fans wanted it” and “representation is good” is a reason to include anything. It’s always clumsy when it’s done for that reason anyway. I can’t name one time it’s felt natural to me when I watch, and even the supporters of it admit that. They know it’s just there to “represent” them, not because it feels natural.

With every good story, the plot twists are surprising, but fit naturally into the rest of the story. Things build off each other. They make sense. The changes in Ozpin’s character worked well, we always knew he was suspicious and irresponsible, finding out why and how, made sense (though I hate the gods part, it’s so badly conceived), but by contrast, Ironwood acts one way in vol 3, continues to act that way up through half of volume 7, then snaps, and goes full on dictator villain.

I thought he would corrupt because anyone who would jam someone’s soul into someone else’s body is already crossing the moral line and then some, but to become heartless and domineering to that point in the course of literally one day in actual story time… how? Why? Why wouldn’t he hesitate? Why is no one questioning this sudden callous, irrational behavior? And how is he stupid enough to let Watts hack Penny, a twist my siblings and I predicted since the ending of the last volume, and possibly before, according to my sister, and yet the people who designed Penny can’t predict it…what?

Sue me for thinking there would actually be explanations for this…

Though stupidity is a minor annoyance for me, since it’s usually inevitable with shows that go on for longer than 3 or 4 seasons. It’s really hard to keep a story going that long, especially without an original ending in mind, and characters tend to be dumb when the plot calls for it.

But stupid and immoral are not the same thing.

Vexed Viewer actually pointed out to me that in volume 7 team RWBY is against focusing on the world instead of Mantle, but in vol 8, with no apparent transition, half the team suddenly thinks they should focus on the world, and the other half thinking they should focus on a single city. Which they haven’t a prayer of saving anyway, as they all know deep down. So, basically, Ruby agrees with Ironwood… so why turn on him, and make yourself a public enemy then? Why not compromise? Ask him if you and your team could help Mantle privately, while some of you help with Atlas… why not do that? Jaune could come up with that plan in 5 minutes… of course, he wasn’t there in vol 7, so I guess that explains it, Ruby is just dumb.

I liked Ruby, honestly, up till vol 7. She wasn’t my favorite, but she has a personality, I believed in her intentions. Now I can’t understand what she’s doing at all. She wanted to help people and be a hero, now she’s acting like she has to single handedly have all the answers and no one can do anything unless she approves of it…which is the opposite of how she was in vol 1. She didn’t want people to think she was special.

This isn’t an arc, however, because at no point did Ruby ever come to grips with being special, she just suddenly starts thinking she’s the bees knees, to use Yang’s term. And Yang actually puts pressure on Ruby by saying “she always knows the right thing to do” and then takes zero responsibility for Ruby making bad decision because she’s forced to do it on the spot and no one else will step up and have an idea. Then Yang, the biggest supporter of Ruby as a leader, turns on her with no warning and says she’s been making bad choices… yeah, Yang, and you were right there questioning them the whole time right? No, you weren’t. You never questioned any of them till now.

I hesitated to use the word bad, but this is bad. Objectively, it just isn’t consistent or built up to at all.

Some might say I am biased because I am A Christian and these changes go against my world view.

Well, I would still disagree with the moral direction of these decisions, but I do criticize Christian art also, when poorly written, and one of the worst ways it is is when conversions are rushed. They just happen for no reason. No drama or progress. Or depth. A Conversion is the most common arc in a Christian story, though there are others.

So, if I compare RWBY to my own standards, I still think it’s being badly done. But the change is recent. Up till vol 5, I didn’t think the characters had changed drastically.

I can’t say exactly why it changed, but I think the moment I would pinpoint as the real change was the death of Adam. Adam was a useless character by that time, I agree he could have been more interesting, but I hated his guts too much to care about it, and I don’t think his death hurt the show in any measurable way. People bemoan the lack of importance more than the actual effect of it. However, it was then that the Bumblebee ship began to be pushed for no reason, and Yang and Blake both started saying weird stuff that made no sense.

However, I really wasn’t sure it was going to go bad till the end of vol 7 when all the characters started doing stuff I couldn’t understand at all, turning on each other, and playing right into Salem’s hands. Like they are doing this on purpose?

Now in vol 8, Ren is pointing out the obvious, that the characters are not ready to be heroes. Well, great, that’s what the fans have been saying for years… so, you’re agreeing with us… and then what…?

Personally, it almost seems like the writers are admitting they have no idea what they are doing or why, and are hoping they will stumble upon the answer.

As a writer myself, I know that if I had any clue where I was going with the story, I’d have set it up by now, I wouldn’t be waiting for 5 seasons to get to the point. I would have had the characters actually change and grow by now, having petty fights in the team should have been a thing back when it first assembled, not now. Now when they can’t afford to be disagreeing and having resentment.

I can say this because I’ve written very similar stories and had to time this out myself, I’m not just underestimating the difficulty of doing this.

Now it’s true I have no fanbase to please, but I am not overly concerned with pleasing the whims of people, I want to go for something meaningful. When you change whole plot points just to please fans, you have a real conflict of interests.

To go back to Bumblebee (which is truly the poison all this started from if you track it because it’s the first time the writers did something just to appease fans) it was never really established for five volumes, while BlackSun, the ship between Blake and Sun, was built up in every volume. They had moments in 1, 2, 3, 4 , and 5. with 1 and 5 featuring Sun as important in two major steps in Blake’s life. Sun, in fact, gets Blake out of the hole she digs herself into on both those occasions, plus they date and flirt in between.

Now, ship or no ship, Sun is huge part of her arc, and it would be wisest to keep him relevant since that would encourage building off her arc. As soon as he’s gone, the show can’t really drive Blake forward because her parents and friends who were helping her grow are gone and she’s on RWBY, where she doesn’t really have anything to contribute, since racism is not the focus of that team. Since Blake has nothing to add to the central themes of wanting to be a hero and telling the truth, as she’s never been great at either of those two things, and does not even call on her bad experiences to help the others avoid making her same mistakes (something that would actually be useful right about now).

And then they push Yang, but don’t do any of the actual work to make that believable. One talk in volume 2 doesn’t cut it.

Losing both Blake and Yang’s depth affected the wider plot, since if Yang talked about Raven, the drama of volume 5 might actually have led to something with the girls and Qrow. If Blake talked about Adam, maybe they could have used the White Fang as a guideline for how to help resolve tensions in Atlas. But no, nothing. Because ship, ship, ship.

Lore

Lastly, my second point. There’s one glaring problem with the lore. It might be overlooked if it was the only problem, but it adds insult to injury.

Penny has become a maiden… even though she is a robot. Maidens had to be girls, had to be young, and had, we thought, to be human. Otherwise, why the heck would they not try to put the power into a machine before? And Penny has a soul, allegedly but it’s a man’s soul, since it came from her father. There should be no way she could take on the maiden powers.

It’s one thing, but it kind of throws off the whole build up since volume 3 of the rules and lore around the magic, and makes you question if the writers just want any excuse to do what they want and make Penny important. Which I wouldn’t mind, if it was following their own rules.

Is someone holding a gun to their heads and making them break the rules they wrote into the show? The world may never know.

I think I explained already why I think this is important. I guess this turned into a post about the intergrity of writing and art in general. Which I could defintely follow up with some other posts expanding ont the differnt points.

But for now I think that’s enough to mull over, until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Not a Place but a Way.

Well, 2020 is almost over, and I got my Christmas shopping all done already. Yay!

I’ve had a full month of feeling much better too, praise the Lord!

So, let’s talk about that.

What happens to someone when they are first taking the stumbling steps out of the hell of constant trauma symptoms, to the middle terrain of starting to break free, before really moving into their new life?

At first you almost don’t believe it. My first few days without gagging, I really wasn’t sure what to think, I’d had a respite before. Then after 2 weeks I began to hope. At 4 weeks, I think I might have weathered the worst of this problem.

But I’ve had a month or so of respite before, it’s still a daily choice much of the time if I will believe this is more than a respite, but actually a change.

Especially when a flare up of allergies can cause similar tightness and gross feelings in my body, and I can’t tell which it is.

For me this is physical, but many people have psychological symptoms exactly like this (I do too, they’re fun), a small problem for one person might be the harbinger of a huge relapse for another… or it might not, in the beginning you don’t know.

I’ve heard in Christine Caine’s sermons where she mentions A-21, that after you rescue a girl from sex trafficking (there’s a few boys in it too, but the bulk of the victims are girls) they don’t know whether you are just going to continue their suffering, or you are actually here to help. Some are hostile, others timid, all of them are scared.

Abuse it pretty much the same, as with any kind of bondage, you go through a really terrible time, and then you’re so used to it that if that time begins to end, you’re scared. You’d almost choose the dank dark dungeon over the open highlands, because you know how to survive in the dungeon (barely) but you have no clue how to thrive out in the open. Like an animal that has acclimated to one terrain only.

Perhaps God would like us to become animals that can migrate, thrive in multiple places, and transition easily between them, but would we really like that?

In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes a chapter titled “Counting the Cost” where he warns that we shouldn’t think that Jesus will solve only the problems in ourselves that we think are bad, he will take all the problems, all the ones we secretly like, all the sins we want to pretend we don’t commit, and he will get rid of those too. “Give Him and inch and He takes an ell” He commands us to be perfect, “You shall be holy as I am holy.”

Being holy for us is like being free is for a victim of abuse, unnatural, new, frightening. Oh, it may be better, we know in our heads, but it’s just so gosh darn painful, can’t we just be “okay.”

God certainly would be one to say “It’s okay if you’re not okay” but what He will add is “Because I will make you more than okay.” Far more than okay. (My sisters and I once named an imaginary band of characters we liked “More Than Okay” as a nod to how God goes above and beyond what we envision for ourselves–yes we are geeks who imagine bands for our faves. Everyone has weird habits.)

I think another good analogy for this is the difference between getting a message and going to the Chiropractor. I’ve had my sister massage me for a long time, she’s gotten pretty good at it, I like really hard massages too, deep tissue. Sometimes he’ll spend an hour on it.

And it brings relief, but no matter how good it feels, within an hour or so, I can feel my muscles prickle back into a strained place, or a few days later, I need it again. A massage just brings relief, it doesn’t fix anything. Massages really are just meant to be temporary solutions. But some people make regular appointments, and some businesses have in-house masseuse, because they want that relief constantly.

When you think about it, it’s a great example of how we spend a lot of money to enable our unhealthy life choices like sitting at desks staring at screens all day. I’m not against a massage now and then, but if you need it every week or even a few times a week, you’re probably doing something wrong, even if you have no choice about it, your body knows it’s not meant to move that way.

By contrast, an adjustment at the chiro feels a lot less good, I personally feel a lot less period when I get adjusted. It’s a relief, but the real difference is how you can move afterwards. I feel looser, more balanced, or less bunched up in certain places. A massage just doesn’t get the same effect. But, I can feel weird for days afterward, and it’s a step by step process, improving a little more each week, but full relief does not come everywhere at the same time. Plus, it’s hard work to walk the right way, to choose purposely to stand on both feet the same way, to sit up straighter and not strain my neck as much.

But, I’ve been reading “Get Your Life Back” John Eldredge’s latest book (at least as far as I know) and he talks about something very similar, the difference between relief, and restoration.

He pints out how all our distractions like food, TV, Social Media, or alcohol, provide a short relief from our pain, but they don’t provide restoration, and they can actually prevent it because it becomes harder to tune in to what we even feel anymore.

I’ve noticed it in myself, one reason I am stressed so much is I moved more and more off relaxing activities like reading, being outdoors, and using my creativity, to things that involved my technology.

I have gotten into some bad habits, but even so, I spend less time online than the average person, if I feel this tired and drained by it, how much more does everyone else? (In the West anyway.)

I didn’t realize till this year how much of my approach to negative emotions was about wanting relief. I might give lip service to the idea of deeper healing, but mostly just wanted to feel better in the moment. The same with the physical stuff, I don’t really want to think about my body’s alignment and my digestive track being messed up from years of anxiety, I actually hate thinking I have bigger problems.

It turns out God was after Restoration in my life. As the Word says “I will restore to you the years the locust has eaten.”

A locust is much like an abusive cycle, it devours everything it can get it’s little claws on, and leaves you nothing. Locusts are a plague, we have grasshoppers in America, or used to, did the same thing, no getting rid of them, you just have to wait till it passes.

No denying it, having a dad like mine robbed me of a lot in life, I’m beginning to acknowledge that loss and I learned new ways he hurt me all the time, it may go on for a while.

And, I’m not like those people who deny they lost anything. “I don’t need that jerk anyway! I’m doing just fine without him.”

There’s a speech from a popular show, I don’t know the name, where a deadbeat father fails his son again, and the son talks to his real father figure, saying at first that it doesn’t matter, he begins listing all the things he learned how to do without his father, like drive a car, and such. The other man just listens in silence. Finally the son ends it with the honest, upset question “So, why doesn’t he want me?”

And yeah, I have to say, that’s a question that never goes away. I’m not sure even God can answer it.

You see, God, He can’t imagine not wanting us. He lives to Love, He Is Love. If there’s one thing that puzzles God, (if I can speculate about such things) it is probably when we humans don’t want to love each other, even the most innocent people to us, our children. God would never beget a child He didn’t want to Love, yet we humans are foolish enough to do it.

My dad began rejecting me when I was an innocent baby, how do you reason with a man like that? When asked, he told my sisters “It’s just the way I am.” Yeah, but you shouldn’t be that way Dad, you’re seriously broken, you need to be fixed.

So, I am left wondering why my father doesn’t want me.

There are some questions that can’t be answered because they are beyond reason, some people simply are incapable of love. It’s hard to accept, but it’s true. They can change, but they have to want to. Becoming dead to love is a choice, but it’s often made long before the person even realizes fully what they are doing, when they do, they may choose to stay that way in order to protect themselves.

My dad decided I wasn’t worth it. That cut deep, and still does. But I know that humans cannot motivate each other to change, very often. There’s exceptions to that, but usually, it can’t be done.

Its really nothing wrong with me, there’s nothing wrong with you either. Even if you’re a bad person now, and you know it, that’s not why you weren’t loved. Humans are simply broken, often empty creatures. It’s rare we are able to become good parents without God’s help.

So, since I did nothing to bring this on myself, I also can’t fix it. That’s why it’s about restoration. I need to be given back what I lost. Security, Love, Joy, Self-Worth. Things that were ripped away from me, I do not exaggerate (I think people with good parents can’t imagine how cruel bad parents can be, and that’s probably a good thing for them, but sometimes Victims get dismissed as being over-dramatic about our lives by people who just haven’t lived it. So, let me just say, I try not to exaggerate, when I use strong language, it’s because I think it’s appropriate.)

I guess in closing, I’m trying to say that Healing is not always fast. In the church, we often talk and sing as if healing is one prayer away.

That’s a product of our instant relief mindset. If you read the Bible, both OT and NT, you’ll see deliverance often takes time and patience, and we’re even told to be glad when it does (working on that still). There are the big time miracles, but things like trauma just don’t go away all at once.

There’s a misunderstanding in much of the Church, though not all, that all problems are alike, just attacks of something at random, or when we’re weak. Some problems are that, but many stem from patterns and years of trouble in our lives. Especially like in my case where the church was bound up in the trauma of abuse, though it was unwittingly so. It’s sickening to me how people like my dad can use the church as a tool, but within any human group, there are blind spots. At least if you look for them.

We sing that God is just one prayer or song or moment away… but what about when God chooses to make us wait longer than that?

The Bible has lots of examples for us, but we seem to forget the context for them. It’s something I had to reconsider of late.

So, praying for relief, and singing about it, have not got me very far. My anxiety isn’t calmed when I’m still focusing on it.

But when I slow down, and breathe, and just let it be, I get a little bit of traction.

Which is why I think this Oh Hellos song sums up much better what many of us need right now:

At the edges of my fingers, never quite closing round it, that peace like a river always flowing, never getting. Seems like maybe it’s not all that much a place, as it is a way. And ways don’t ever seem to want to stay too still, too long./

Isn’t that what’s it’s all about? The slow trickling that sets the banks in half, the sweet melody it makes as the canyons crack. I want to give it all I got, and I want nothing, no I want nothing back./ Whatever kingdom come, it probably won’t come quick, no might clarion to announce it, no single use ark to discard in an instant. Like Theseus’s ship, we’ll fix the busted bits. Till it’s both nothing like, and everything, it’s always been. It’s a wonder we expect a thing to stay the same at all./

Isn’t that what it’s all about? We keep fixing what we know is only bound to break, what’s worth saving’s never worth letting go to waste. I want to mend what I’ve got instead of throwing it away./

Ain’t nothing comes easy, no nothing comes quick, it’s gonna hurt like hell to become well, but if we set the bone straight, it’ll mend, it’ll fix, and we’ll be well.

Ain’t nothing come easy, no nothing comes quick, but I want for you this:That you are well. I want for us this: That we are well.”

The Bible says Peace is like a river. Isn’t it odd that it does not say Peace is like still water? A lake or pool maybe? No, it’s a river. Seems more like something Pocahontas would like, because it’s always moving. It’s not much like the eastern idea of serenity is it?

But, with the help of this brilliant song, I began to understand why the Bible might use the image of a river.

I found that peace if I chased it, and tried to treat it like a place to camp out, was fleeting. What comforted me one day didn’t the next, what worked one day didn’t the next. I can move one way and feel better, the next day I might feel worse.

But my understanding of healing and health was off. I wanted to just lie down and be at peace. But if I lay down, my mind would dwell on my fears. If I held still, it would catch up.

But trying to move, to make myself think of other stuff, didn’t work either. Trying to pray or worship out of it didn’t work. I was often scared even doing that and my mind went right back to worrying (I still have this problem).

What started to change that was when I realized a little that this is a journey of learning how to walk differently, to walk with God step by step, as Rich Mullins sang, and walk in straight paths. It really is a way, and Jesus actually calls Himself The Way, not a place. God is a shelter, a strong tower, but Jesus, our savoir, is The Way. Being saved comes by learning to walk in Him. God bails you out, but Jesus changes you until you no longer need to be bailed out (of course it’s more complex than that, but I’m trying to give a vague idea of how it works here, not a whole theology of who does what).

How can I describe it? I think the song puts it better than I can. Peace and Healing is the slow trickling that wears down the banks and cracks the canyons, which you might see as our problems and obstacle to change, just like water erodes rock now. It happens so slowly you don’t notice, it’s not loud, it’s not announced with a clarion.

It’s not something you can pray once for, not like the reference to an ark, this isn’t the Flood, a one time disaster, it’s an ocean we have to keep crossing, a river we have to float down.

And when our vessel (which can mean ourselves, in the Bible, and also a ship) is fixed bit by bit, it will be nothing like it was before, because it’s new, and yet it will still be us, far more ourselves than we were before, so it is everything it’s always been.

I think when the song says that I want to mend what I’ve got, be cause what’s worth saving is never worth letting go to waste, it means that if we think we are worth saving, we must believe we are wroth healing. That we should not hate what we are, but be willing to be fixed bit by bit, and not throw out our whole selves. We are given this raw material to work with, what we let God make of it is another matter, as Lewis pointed out.

Finally, the song reminds us that a truly good person will want us to be well. and tells us that it is never easy or quick, that it hurts like hell to become well (and often physical therapy is more painful than the original injury, if you totaled it up) but if you set the bone straight, it’ll mend. In other words, you have to correct what’s been wrong, you have to be set on the right path, you have to be changed, and then you will heal.

I will only heal when I have been changed, but you could just as easily say, I will only change when I have been healed. Both are true because it’s a simultaneous process.

That’s why human cures rarely work for stuff like this, many people I know chase a healthy diet, exercise, and outdoorsy lifestyles, and many are still sick all the time with serious problems. But they are only trying to heal, they are not trying to change who they are. They probably can’t.

And people who try to change how they are by force, will fail even harder. The bone has to be guided and held back into place, you can’t do it yourself.

Which of course, is why you have to be careful when you think about that river. Remember that you can ride down a river with no effort on your part except staying straight. That’s how Peace is, you let yourself be moved as God moves you. Not by your own power, not trying to stay still. It’s more work to stay still in a river than it is to move.

This turned into an essay, but I kind of like it. Until next time, stay honest and get healthy–Natasha.

Some thoughts about Self Love

Sorry for the wait, and welcome to my new followers, thanks to you guys I am almost at 170 and I didn’t even post for like a week.

Let’s talk about something that’s been catching my eye recently.

A lot of people in this culture, specifically Western culture, are now promoting the idea that you are enough for yourself.

Perhaps one of the most recent, famous examples is in the sequel to the iconic Frozen, as some of you know, my personal favorite movie.

Now the first movie is awesome, and I will dab on them haters over that, no one talks me out of liking a good movie just because it was over hyped (blame marketing analysts for that), and I finally, after forestalling for a year, watched Frozen 2.

I’ve heard about 50-50 good/bad opinions on this film, some people liked it, some hated it, pretty much everyone agrees it can’t compare to the original, standard sequel stuff, unless you’re STAR WARS.

But if you care at all about Disney, you probably already knew that, so I’ll cut to the chase:

The conclusion of this movie, despite some excellent ideas int he middle and beginning, is abominable. Elsa is told by her mom (by the way, how was her mom even there? It’s never explained if she was magic, or if Elsa was just remembering her, or whatever) that she is all she needs. She’s the answer she’s been looking for.

I, up till that point, might have been anticipating the answer to Elsa’s search, but at that point, I’m thinking “Bullcrap.”

Elsa starts this movie with a relatable problem just like int he first, she feels she’s not what she’s meant to be, and she feels the call of something more, something beyond herself. So she goes to look for it, and discovers a lot of truths about her world she didn’t know before…and the answer is, HERSELF? Talk about being disappointed.

I mean, put yourself in her place, you go off expecting to find someone, this voice calling you, and then you’re told “no, the voice was just you the whole time”…aren’t you doing to be disappointed?

Look, if I wanted to find myself, I wouldn’t have left home chasing someone else’s voice.

If it comes to it, how can she be hearing her own voice call her? If she’s the spirit…ugh, it just doesn’t make sense.

But it strikes me that it’s a product of our culture. I’m sure I’m not the first person to say so, but I haven’t seen anyone else talking about it yet, so I’ll give my take.

It’s known as the message of Self Love, usually. I don’t need anyone else’s approval, if I’m okay with who I am, etc. Accept yourself, love yourself, and so on and so forth.

In a world where we are addicted to screens, and spend hours alone in our rooms, even if we’re chatting online, physically we’re alone, perhaps it makes sense that we are feeding ourselves the lie that we are all we need.

I know many people, particularly women, embrace that lie, after failed relationships, and being hurt by their fathers, or mothers, and hearing the whole feminist speel, we want to feel empowered. I am my own answer, etc. Self Help,here we come

I used to think that way too. If you’ve been following my journey on this blood of this year and my life falling in on me, you probably noticed how much I’ve talked about how I can’t do this alone.

Yeah, being alone trying to love myself is what got me into this, along with my dad’s abuse, and my family’s neglect.

Actually, people like me are terrible at self care. I’m programmed to feel guilty if I ever prioritize myself. You take a church background, and add to it two parents who don’t model self care or healthy expressions of feelings, needs, or wants, and you get a child who is afraid to feel, want, or need anything. Feelings are scary.

But I read it in books as I searched for answers as a young teen, that I need to affirm myself. And my therapist told me the same thing. Other people have told me that too.

Crap, if that was enough, I’d be fine.

Contrary to what’s usual for victims of abuse, I don’t actually treat myself badly or think I’m rubbish. I have confidence in my intelligence, appearance, and kindness as a person. I don’t think I’m terrible. Not consciously anyway. I’m satisifeid with myslef on an averge day when it comes to the outer things, the thigns we want people to see us for.

I never have been one to hate on myself openly. I was a feisty little girl, and still am. I didn’t take crap frome people or my dad as a kid, I still don’t.

And that is why I can tell ouuo form the depths of my heart, that that was not enough.

i respected myself, I stood up for myself, I did everything I could to excape my situation: And I have lived through a year of hellish emotional issues and physical issues. STress, panic attacks, anxiwet , depression, suidical thoughts, self hatered. tension with my family, PLUS COVID!

If anyone should know that Self Love is not enough, it should be me. We cannot heal ourselves. We cannot even begin to do it. I loathe it when I hear peopel tell hurting people that they need to love themselves more. IT will never, ever, set them free.

(Before I move on, I wan to say I am not putting down Self Love it self. Of course it’s important, the Bible teaches that, but it’s important for other reasons than to give healing and meaning to our lives, we’re told to care for ourselves because we recognize our body and our life is a gift form God, created to be loved and to love Him, and we accept that, and love ourselves. It’s not a solution to our problems, just a return to what’s natural and right.)

One reason self love does not work is because we do ont see ourselves very clearly aat any itme,. Maybe you’ve heard teh analogy that we see hundreds of faces every day and the face we see the least is our own. Even when we do, it’s only through a mirror. You cannot look yourself int he face without help. SOme see this as a picture of how little we know ourselves, and how we need help to even know what we know.

And it’s true, if you can’t look at yourself clearly, how can you really know enough to say you love yourself?

G. K. Chestron worte in “Orthodoxy” that a manw ho believes fully in himslef is insane. He is compeltely convicned o f his own idea, he might think he was a poached egg, and beleive fully in his own judgment, so he believea in himslef…but he’s crazy.

Hitler bleieved in himself, you might say. HE certaily didn’t believe in God.

And in your own life, the people who believe the most int hemselve are not often your favorite peopel, are they? Narcissists cannot be questiong, ethey are always rigth, they believe that…and nobody likes them. They are insufferable prigs.

People with BDP often (unless they are trying to overcome it) beleive fully that they are alwasy the victim, and cannot be convicnec otherwise.

Really, who doesn’t prefer a little insecurity to the idea that we don’t need anyone.

We all like to say “I don’t need anyone” but when we are around someone who broadcasts that message to us, are we not completely uncomfortable? I know I am. I mean, why do they even need me to be around them.

Even basic companionship is a need we have, even if it’s expressed more as a desire. What we want and what we need are often the same thing, so if you say “I need no one but myself” you are essentially saying “I want no one but myself around me” and who wants to be around someone who hates people? (Am I making any social recluses uncomfortable yet? Hey, I’m not judging, I’m hardly antisocial but I get tired of people often).

C. S. Lewis also cautions us against the dangers of not caring what other people think of us in “Mere Christianity” when he write his chapter about Pride. He points out that if we truly cease to care what people think it is usually because we see them all as below us. You’ll hear this quite often now, “Who cares what those morons think? F— them!” “I don’t need anyone’s approval!” “To he– with your opinion”

And is it often the nicest, kindest people who spout this nonsense? Or is it not the rude, arrogant, selfish, self-obsessed ones who just want to do whatever they want without any obligation to anyone.

Usually I hear it from angry, or disrespectful people, often women, sad to say, in this culture.

Back when I also tried this, I thought it was my only escape from how my cruel father painted images of me to myself and my family and anyone who would listen.

My father would humiliate me to total strangers if I went to work with him by bad mouthing me to them and telling them things I’d say to him in private. Usually in a whiny condescending voice (you know the type people use to mock you). It happened more times than I can even remember, it happened with family friends, with family members, over and over. It happens to this day, I’m sure, as I know he calls my extended family to gripe about us cutting him off.

My father would nudge me in church whenever the pastor mentioned children respecting parents, and say, loud enough for half the congregation to hear “You hear that, insert-my-name?” My mom? Does nothing to stop him… well, okay, she would sometimes, but he wouldn’t’ listen to her and she wasn’t’ always there, other times he allowed it.

Not to mention the constant degrading things he would say to me. If I asked how I looked, not even talking to him, he’d say “hideous.” I remember maybe one time he said something nice to me about my looks, in 20 years, one time. Maybe two. He made fun of it when I got acne, when I got braces, when I became a woman, you name it.

When my writing endeavors took off, he deliberately criticized it unfairly, and encouraged my sisters to do the same.

All this to say, my dad set me up to be a real piece of work. And my only fallback, since my other family members were silent on this point, was to decide I liked myself, or believed I was in the right.

I have pages and pages of journals filled with outrage and the desperate attempt to convince myself I was not a terrible person. And I live with that doubt now.

As shocking as it is to me, I may actually have been angelic by most people’s standards, under the circumstances. Considering how my dad treated me ever since I can remember, I was surprisingly forgiving, even as a kid. And I was affectionate. It was never enough for him, but for a better parent, it would have been quite touching. At least I know I melt if kids treat me the way I treated my parents.

It wasn’t Self Love that got me to see I might not be so bad, it was a lot of help from others, and God. I still remember as an early teen when I first started getting told I was nice, cute, or pretty by people, and how much it shocked me. That was what got me to first question how my parents had taught me to see myself.

And just to expose the self love thing more, I remember two times I tried it. Once was telling my dad I didn’t wear make up because I didn’t need it (project confidence, you know) his response? In a rather evaluating tone he told me it wouldn’t hurt me to use make-up, and style my hair. (Now I don’t upload photos, but everyone loves my hair, and says I have a good face, even without make up. I do wear it, but not every time I’m in public, I like to go with my mood, so my dad was straight up blind or lying, or both.) Another time, I admired myself in a mirror, daring to think I looked a little bit pretty, and my mom called me “as vain as peacock.” Just for looking at myself. I didn’t eve say anything. If I ever asked if I looked good, she’d say I was “digging for a compliment.” This woman never praised me, ever, of her own free will, for as long as I can remember.

So, you see, both my parents crushed my attempts at self love with an almost savagely accurate cruelty. My mom is as least sorry and has come to see it was wrong. My father probably will deny it ever happened once enough time passes. He’s denied stuff before.

Even so, I kept trying to believe in myself. But my only real comfort in those dark years was knowing God loved me and saw good in me even if no one else did. It often seemed no one else did. I was in trouble at home every week, family friends (who I now know were toxic busybodies) criticized me to my parents, and people at church (also a toxic environment, remember my dad controlled all this) did the same.

Meanwhile, I was learning to write. Reading as mush theology and fiction as I could, and finding out what my interests are. I could have gone very wrong. But luckily, my parents did have good theology around, even if they didn’t demonstrate it, and I took it to heart.

Frozen actualy came out about a ear after I became a ture believer, and it was at the time I frist read “Captiviating” b John and Stasi eldege, that book coupel with that movie changed my life, not exaggeration.

It introduced me to deep inner healing, to God filling the void left by parents, and to the idea that I could say my father’s actions were wrong. The book is not about self love, but about learning to be loved.

That’s the real secret, ladies and gentlemen, you have to learn to be loved.

If you look closely at Frozen, you’ll notice that that is what that movie is actually about. Elsa is taught to hate herself by her shortsighted parents, and develops a bunch of toxic styles of relating to people and herself. Then when trouble comes, she snaps and runs away, like we all do. Then she has a breakthrough of relaxing those expectations on her were wrong, and harmful, and she throws them off. People think Let It Go is negative, but it’s actually a very important step in the journey to freedom to realize that the lies you lived under are wrong “conceal don’t feel” is terrible advice.

But recognizing the lies doesn’t free her, it just opens her up to realize the truth. When Anna finds her, she is able to express actual concern for her, but reverts back to fear once she feels guilty again. Of course wounding Anna in the process. Later Elsa becomes a captive, literally and figuratively to her fear and Hans, and runs away after giving up on helping. Finally, she is crushed by the idea that she killed her sister, and has no heart event o run and save herself anymore.

It’s significant that Elsa gives up trying to save herself at her lowest point. And that’s when Anna swoops in and save her life. Elsa can recognize it then because she stopped trying to run. That’s what makes that moment to powerful. Elsa finally receives Anna’s love by hugging her, and then it sets her free to heal Arendelle, and become the queen she’s meant to be. No longer alone.

Love is the answer. You have to learn to be loved. I was 14 or 15 when I first saw this movie, I am 22 now, it’s been near 8 years, and I am still learning to be loved, I only just realized what the movie is really about. That why the symbolism of doors is used so often. The door is like the consent to be loved. It’s never about Elsa refusing to love Anna, she always loved her, but she didn’t open the door to Anna’s love until she had nothing left t lose by doing it. Much like what happened to me. You have to open the door.

God can do many things, but I have never seen evidence that He can make us receive His love, it is always a choice to open up, even if opening up is just collapsing in defeat at His feet. I’ve done it many times.

Contrast that to the 2nd movie, and you notice they totally for got their own point. The writers did not really realize what they had with Frozen, so often that’s the case.

Frozen hit us hard because we so desperately need to hear this, that we can learn to be loved, and that will heal us. That’s all healing really is.

I stayed open to my parents love for a long time, long after I gave up expecting it. Most victims of abuse are like that. We keep hoping for the abuser to change, but with every other relationship we’re in, we find it uncomfortable to be loved, even if we crave it.

In my case, I still am not super at ease with being loved. I am only to the point where I don’t directly fight it all the time. I’ll accept the hug, I’ll ask for encouragement, I will let people give a little to me; I still feel guilty about it, but I try to ignore the guilt and remind myself that I have to be willing to accept this.

I wish I cold tell you it’s easy to do this, that I never doubt whether I’m doing the right thing. But I’ve doubted just today whether I’m worth all this, if I’m a good person, if I am on the right path.

I know that recovery is going to take a lot longer than one year.

It’s actually quite frustrating to realize how much I hate being loved, I find it irritating to be treated nicely quite often. though I also hate being treated badly. I am thrown off by kindness. People have told me I don’t take praise or encouragement really well.

I want so answer them “I’m broken. I can’t take it like a normal person… and you made me this way.”

What do you expect really? I grew up mocked, degraded, or given dead silence about y good points. Of course I find it uncomfortable.

I bet some of you reading this have the same problem. I’d love to hear if anyone has figured out how to solve it yet.

I don’t know what my process will be, but I know that God is the only one who can get me there. I know that people do get out of it. It takes time.

I know it is scary to need other people, my need for it has kept me up at night in agony becuae I felt so angry and misarable and alone.

I still get annoyed, but I now have made steps to acknowledge my need for people and to reach out.

It’s true I could get hurt again, and I will, but I don’t think that’s a reason to shut down.

I’ve had my time of using every negaitve expereince to justify my beleif that people always treat me badly, but I learned that I will be drawn to those people naturally due to my past if I don’t actively try to seek out better. Evetually, being drawn to healthy people will become the norm for me.

Anyway, I think this post is probably long enough to be an essay, so I should wrap it up.

In summary, all this is why I believe Self Love is a very dangerous band-aid to put on a gaping wound, but I do believe that being healed will enable us to love ourselves how we should.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.