The Power of Fan Films

With the release of “The Empire Strikes Back – Revisited,” I’ve been in a bit of a Star Wars mood. Given that Revisited is a fan project, my mind has lately turned to thinking about other fan projects. The fans are the biggest part of why Star Wars survived its drought years between Episode III and Episode VII.

It was not only fans watching The Clone Wars or Rebels that kept the franchise afloat, however. It was fans creating new things: new stories, new tales, new places, new characters. This zeal is what kept Star Wars alive more than anything.

Now, I want to share some of that creative brilliance with you.

Days Past

Honestly, I actually ran across this film while searching for some of my old favorites. It’s not really much of a surprise I didn’t know about it before, given it came out at the beginning of the month. But I’m glad I found it.

Days Past is a look at the relationship between a teacher and her pupil after the fall of the Republic…but it’s not what you expect. There’s not much more I can say without spoiling the plot. However, I would like to give this film credit for the quality of its set; it looks so authentic. Additionally, the character work is phenomenal, and the actors deserve a great deal of credit for bringing them to life.

DARTH MAUL: Apprentice

One of the big problems with the lightsaber duels in the Prequels is their choreography. Wait, just hear me out for a second! The problem is that the movies are overly focused on being flashy and cool, to the point where the fights are no longer convincing. Now, that’s not to say that this fan film does not do that; it does. I would like to note the one Jedi who flips into a shot for no reason whatsoever. Indeed, the entire point of the film is to be a cool, flashy lightsaber duel between a group of Jedi and Darth Maul.

But there’s something about the way it is handled that feels more…real. Not every strike is well-practiced and coordinated. There isn’t nearly as much pointless posturing between combatants. There’s even a bit of emotional pull (though nothing like Days Past). And if you don’t care about any of that…Darth Maul.

Hoshino

Something I’ve observed is that fan films tend to be much better when they’re shorter. If they go above the twenty minute mark, their quality starts to decline. I presume this is because the limitations inherent in any fan production start to catch up with them. They have all that time to fill, but only one or two writers, a limited number of crew and actors, limited special effects, limited budget…

Hence why films like Hoshino tend to be so good. The actual movie is only six minutes long, but it is so focused that it feels longer. Its characterization is splendid and it tells its tale so effectively. It has very little action…and it does not need it. The characters drive the story and that is wonderful.

TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story

Everyone loves Jedi. They have special powers and laser swords and lots of authority. But Jedi aren’t the only denizens of the galaxy, are they? There are trillions of people in Star Wars; what about their stories? TK-436 tries to tell one of those stories.

Now, I could nitpick the technical details in the special effects. Lasers aren’t always colored correctly, X-Wings flying around with their wings closed…but I would be missing the point, wouldn’t I? No, instead, I’ll just focus on the emotional tale of a stormtrooper forced to confront his past in the middle of a grim battle on a distant world.

I think I’m going to have to make another post. I didn’t talk about nearly all the fan films I wanted to…

Advertisements

Can and Should

A man was fired recently. Contrary to what the left would have the general public believe, it is not because he was sexist, or racist, or opposed the shallow vanity that passes for diversity today. No, he was fired only because he dared to have a serious, nuanced opinion that did not conform exactly to leftist groupthink. It did not matter that his opinions largely matched up to the left’s; that he did not toe the line exactly was the problem. So Google, one of the greatest tech giants in the world, fired him.

Now, you might say, “Google is a private organization! They can do whatever they want!” Which they can. But that’s a non sequitur. That they are free to practice whatever hiring and firing decision is not the point, nor am I advocating for restrictions on this. Lord knows if I don’t think that Christian groups should be forced to have gay and Muslim leaders, than no one ought to be forcing Google to hire or retain employees against their will.

However, that does not mean Google did the right thing (indeed, they may have done something very bad, as it turns out).

Indeed, this is a major problem with our society. We equate the freedom to do something with its rightness. We fail to differentiate between the words “can” and “should.”

Can we fire this person? Yes. Should we fire this person? Probably not.

Can we force this baker out of business for refusing to bake a cake that goes against their beliefs? Probably. Should we ruin this person’s livelihood? Probably not.

Can I get blasted drunk this weekend? Yes. Is this a terribly good idea? My hangover will probably tell me no.

Can I sleep around? Yes. Should I run the risk of diseases, pregnancy, or emotional turmoil? I’m going with no.

Can I strut around like I know everything the world has to offer? Yes. Should I, given I’ve only lived a bit north of a quarter century? No.

The problem is that we don’t treat ourselves and our freedom with any real respect. We, as a society, earnestly believe that because we are free to do something, there is nothing wrong with actually doing it. We believe that there should be nothing restraining us from any action, good or bad.

I don’t believe that. I believe that one of the goals of life should be to lead a dignified and respectable life. We ought not be going around behaving stupidly and foolishly. We should not go around heedless of others and even ourselves. Bear in mind, I’m not advocating for leading dull, uninteresting lives (I know I do, and I’m not necessarily proud of that). Sure, we’ll occasionally do wild, crazy. even stupid things. We will do mean and unkind things. We might even think those things worthwhile, that the costs associated with those actions are outweighed by the (perceived) positives. Should we make a habit of it, though? Should we turn those things into our lifestyle?

Shouldn’t we have enough self-awareness to realize when we are making mistakes? Or is that sort of self-reflection outmoded too?

The “Othering” of Introverts

 

I wish that I didn’t feel compelled to write this, but after nearly 37 years on this Earth I still feel like a bit of an outcast because of who I am.

I am an introvert.

There are already a lot of people who have discounted this post out of hand because they see introversion as an “internet fad” that people use to feel special. There may be some people who do use this personality type and the online communities dedicated to it as a mask or an outlet. People are complex creatures and they sometimes do confusing or unreasonable things. However, I can attest to the fact that introversion is very real, and I know that we move more freely and comfortably online and it is therefore no surprise that we have found forums in which to congregate and commiserate about how we feel, how we function, and how we are still so misunderstood.

There aren’t many people who truly understand me as a person, or why I do (or don’t do) certain things. I was trying to explain to my children just this morning why I am so exhausted after a weekend that was not terribly physically demanding. It wasn’t the work I had to do that wore me out, it was the fact that my plans, throughout the week, have had to change almost daily, and I have had more interaction than usual with other people, and when I made plans to do nothing (specifically to do nothing) on my day off, I was instead asked to do work things and family things and school club things.

It isn’t that I dislike my job, or don’t get on well with my family, or that I’m depressed (introverts are often assumed to be depressed misandrists); rather, I just require time to recharge from the demands of servicing the needs of other people. Even conversation, however mundane, is a need most people have (hermit exemption applies), and it is not something that we can accomplish by ourselves. Therefore, conversation is an activity that you require someone else to participate in.

The conversation that most people expect just on a daily basis (the chatty woman in the bread aisle, the cashier asking about your shopping experience, the relative who calls with a question, the kids asking if they can go somewhere or do something) can already be taxing for an introvert, but add to that the extra demands of work, special requests of family, needs of friends, and any unexpected changes to your schedule and suddenly you have someone who is already feeling the tank run low but they have no idea when they’ll be able to refill it. You know that feeling… the feeling of anxiety and even panic when the fuel gauge of your car is dipping toward the red, and there are no gas stations in sight, and you’re on an unfamiliar road? That’s an introvert when they have had to deal with people and change and do not know when they’ll be able to enjoy their solitude long enough to recharge. We can usually calm down when we have a dedicated period set aside for doing nothing (which to us is everything – although many people see reading, meditating, or watching a favorite show as merely nothing). We may be puttering along, low on energy, but just knowing we’ll refuel soon is comforting: it’s the uncertainty that really wears on us.

To be clear, I love my family and I like my job. I adore my kids and encourage them to participate in activities that help them develop physically and mentally as individuals. I just need to spend time in peace and quiet in order to give the best of myself to them. The need for solitude, and the importance of self-care, is not a malicious or even passive selfishness. You cannot attend to the needs of others efficiently if your own state is precarious. It is no more selfish to assure you are psychologically prepared to handle your responsibilities than it is to insure you are physically capable of doing a task. It is prudent.

So many people see this need for solitude as shyness, or melancholy, or even arrogance. This is why we have our online forums and communities. This is why we write blogs. It’s not that we’re super impressed with ourselves for being “different”. It’s not that we want to be noticed and celebrated. We simply want to be understood. We want to exist without constantly being told we’re broken or that we need to change. Just because we enjoy solitude, and are often quiet in crowds, does not mean that we’re suffering from depression or shyness. It simply means we are observing and are content to interact on our terms. Not everyone wants to speak every thought. Not everyone needs to weigh in on every conversation. We aren’t “too good” to participate, we simply prefer to participate on our terms, in our time. We like to watch and listen and think. We are content with our own company. None of this means that we don’t like to go out and do things, or that we never want to talk. Introverts simply do not feel the need to do those things as strongly as other people do. When we are recharged and ready to participate in activities with other people, we’re a bit like a butterfly breaking free of a cocoon, vibrant and animated! We definitely require our quiet cocoon first, however.

Recently there was a concert listing game making the rounds on Facebook, and it reminded me how very unlike other people I am. There are several reasons why I haven’t attended concerts (money, time, desire), and I am not opposed to the idea of it, but I do not see concert-going as the pinnacle of fun. As a matter of fact, I simply don’t get worked up about music in general. This has earned me censure and a good deal of shocked disbelief over the years. I’ve had people insist that if I’d only listen to this, or try that, or “get out of the house,” I’d suddenly love it. Even if I do enjoy music I hadn’t heard before, I rarely enjoy anything that is blasted at full volume over a crowd of cheering strangers.

It’s not that I don’t like music, and even love some of it, it’s just that I really like silence. I enjoy walking outside without earbuds blasting notes and lyrics into my head, because I like the sound of birdsong and wind-rustled leaves and dogs barking in the distance. I like to hear gravel crunch under my feet. I despise, with a burning passion, unnecessary noise. I hate chatter that simply fills a silence. I bless the silence! I like to drive with the radio off. I like to clean with only the sounds of the fan running and the gentle swish of cleaner being sprayed. I just like hearing the world around me without blasting noise into it every second of the day and night.

There are, of course, times when I want to listen to music, and usually then a very specific kind of music or artist. I do enjoy it! It’s just not something I need to hear every day. Like a book that I can still envision in my mind, music plays in the background of my thoughts even when the world around me is silent. This is perhaps the most commonly expressed aspect of introversion – the “rich inner world”. It’s not that we despise the outside world and all its offerings, but that we can (and do) savor the things we experience beyond their actual duration. It’s often because we are savoring something in our thought and memory (or working out a problem, or pondering new information) that having anything intrude on that can be unpleasant and tiring. Imagine giving a presentation and being constantly interrupted with questions and demands that are largely irrelevant to the topic at hand; that is what it feels like to have the mind of an introvert.

I would dearly love it if I could fall into the blissful embrace of solitude, or sit silently pondering many things, without someone mistakenly assuming that I’m upset, or shy, or down in the dumps. Shyness is timidity, which by definition means lacking courage or confidence. Introverts are not necessarily shy any more than they are despondent merely because they’re quiet. It is much more plausible to say that introverts are simply stoic. All in all, stoicism and forbearance are not bad traits to have, and they are certainly not traits that imply one is dysfunctional. We introverts function just fine, we merely function differently than our extroverted and ambiverted friends, but we all share a commonality in that we as human beings wish to be understood and appreciated as we are.

The Pariahs

Once, in a past long before I was ever born, it seemed like people could live with each other. They could embrace and live with the contradictions among themselves. Yes, they disagreed, but at the end of the day, they could break bread and be friends and family.

Yet this no longer seems to be the case.

We live in a world today where, if you do not follow a person’s beliefs to the letter, they are to be shunned. They are to be treated as the dregs of the Earth, ostracized from common society. It does not matter what good these people do, what joy they bring to other people’s lives. The moment we stray from “socially acceptable” mores, we become…the other. A monster. The sort of being better suited to living under a bridge, terrorizing passersby with our backwardness.

It really is easier to simply believe that the trends of modern society are completely healthy. It is easy to believe that the people who oppose you deserve no seat at the table; that they deserve no voice. It is easy to claim that such people stand for hate and that hate will not be tolerated.

How true is this, though?

Is the the man who observes that only one race is demonized in public a racist? Is the accepted view that this particular race is inherently bad for the sins of centuries past not itself racist? Is it bad to point out the flaws, if not the dangers, in such thinking?

Is the man who worries about un-vetted foreign nationals entering his nation a xenophobe? Is it so wrong for him to observe the stark realities of the sorts of people who present a danger to his nation? Do these honest observations make him a nazi?

What of the man who sees his maleness as nothing to be ashamed of? As something even to be celebrated in its own unique way? Is he a misogynist for believing in the uniqueness of men and women and the necessity of letting those two things be separate?

Does this same man hate if he does not agree with the lifestyles of the LGBT community? Is it necessary that he must feel malice in his heart if he sees the views held by such as unhealthy? Is it a horror for that man to believe that maybe there is another way, a different way to think, a different way to live?

Do any of those opinions fill a man with hate simply by existing? Is there no possible good reason or decent logic for holding opinions such as these? Must it be assumed that there is only malice here and simply not another way?

Because I am that man.

I have friends like me.

But there are plenty of people in all of our lives not like us. People who hold views contrary to everything we hold dear. People who follow lifestyles at which we can only shake our heads mournfully. Yet we do not hate.

Can you say the same of yourselves?

I do not have to agree with the beliefs of my fellows to still have them enrich my life. They do not have to hold the same viewpoints, love the same things, be the same people to be of value to me. Yes, your beliefs may make me cringe, your assumptions of what I believe may make me roll my eyes, but you are not a monster to me for those things. Far from it.

No, you are not a monster, but do you think the same of me?

Because all I ever see from those who differ from me is an endless campaign of ostracism. Ceaseless attempts to demonize. No serious attempts at understanding or sharing, no real parley or discussion. There is no real need to discuss topics with racists, bigots, Nazis, or whatever else people of certain persuasions might be called today.

But I am not here to lay blame, tempting though that may be. No, rather I wonder how we have become the sort of people who only ever lay blame. Who only ever look for wrong-doing. Who only ever try to tear people down as villains, no matter their offenses. Why are we the sort of people who never listen? The sort of people who regard ourselves so highly that we can brook no disagreement without personal insult?

Will this piece make me a pariah among my peers? Am I to be cast as a monster too? Or perhaps belittled or condescended to?

I do not know. That is the scariest part of the world in which we live, for the very basic social fabric itself is always in question, always in doubt. Will we hold the same standing the day we did before, not for a crime or any sort of real wrong-doing at all, but for simply holding a thought, a view, an opinion? If we carry this course to its end, what will our culture look like on the far side?

Embrace the Contradictions

It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means…

wednesdays
On Wednesdays we post spoilers.

WALKING DEAD COMMENTARY!

Okay, so for everyone who didn’t wimp out after Abraham and Glenn got Lucilled in the season premiere, Congratulations!! You may sit at our table.

fab-evil
I’m offering an olive branch..that’s wrapped in barbed wire.

Episode 2, “The Well,” introduces King Ezekiel and The Kingdom, which I suppose is proof that geeks and LARPers can survive the apocalypse.

haters
Become a king. Own a tiger. Be FABULOUS.

Carol wakes up after being unconscious for a couple of days due to her injury, only to find herself in this wonderland of tranquility and goodwill. Morgan takes her to meet King Ezekiel, and she almost forgets to affect her innocent act. You can tell she’s flustered, but little Sally Sunshine soon rises to the occasion and the cookie-baking Carol who fooled the inhabitants of Alexandria is once more ready for action.

punch-face
Oh, Carol, you saucy minx. We love you.

Carol is having none of this peace and plenty, though, and she lets Morgan know that she will not be staying with this group or returning to Alexandria as he had intended.

(By this time, of course, Glenn’s brain matter is decorating the ground and Rick is all crazy-eyes and snot, because Negan broke him. The group at Alexandria could use some good news and reinforcements, but Carol knows none of this and one has to wonder if it wouldn’t just make her more determined to go it alone.) 

Morgan, meanwhile, has taken a young man under his wing at Ezekiel’s request and is teaching him the ways of the Amish Ninja. You get the impression that Morgan is withdrawing his support from the #AllLivesMatter camp and making room for the possibility that some lives will have to end to preserve other lives.

shut-up
Just in time for the Neganpocalypse

It’s good that Morgan is coming to these conclusions before returning to the group, but Carol seems to need some time in the wilderness before she finds her mental balance again. She begins cheerfully and discreetly pilfering items from the residents of the Kingdom, intending to sneak away and shun whatever remnants of civilization are left, but is caught by King Ezekiel.

problem
Your problems don’t seem so bad when you’re eating a juicy pomegranate, now do they?

Zeke is cool, tho. He lets Carol in on his little secret (that he’s not a real king and stuff… total shocker!) and offers her a solution: embrace the contradiction.

He’s well aware that his kingdom exists in stark contrast to the reality of the world around him, and he’s carrying a heavy burden for the people inside his realm, but it’s the dream that makes it all worthwhile. He suggests that Carol can leave, but not, and offers to provide her with the means to go it alone if she so chooses.

feels
Don’t leave us, bae!

What follows is a solution that everyone can live with. Carol is on her own, but not, and Morgan is free to return to Alexandria. They both manage to make an impression on Ezekiel, which is promising given the possibility (necessity?) of an alliance and trade between the Kingdom and Alexandria. I’m hoping Maggie recovers and kicks butt at Hilltop, takes over management of that place, and then they can create a triumvirate with Maggie, Rick, and Ezekiel that would challenge Negan and the Saviors.

All in all, it was a very optimistic episode, in stark contrast to the premiere. It gave me some good feels, and made me hopeful again. I loved the depiction of Negan and Ezekiel as a fan of the comics, and I’m fully on board to embrace the contradictions established by these two dynamic characters. I’m excited to see where this season goes from here!

love
I can’t quit you, The Walking Dead. 

 

If you want to be part of the conversation about this and other topics, tune in to #NerdRage tonight, 9:30/8:30 central and join us in the live chat. Osei, Ruth, and I will discuss TWD and what the new developments mean for the group. We’ll discuss that other thing I wrote about, and Ruth is working on a post about the sexism of STEM and how photos of nature help ease the triggering, or something. So much nerdery! So much rage! We’d love to see you there!

 

 

 

Stop Blaming Men For Your Failures As A Woman

I recently had a friend ask my opinion of this post entitled, “Why Women Need To Start Asking Men Out…Because Men Have No Balls,” and oh boy….

what-even-face
*fights the urge to slap a mutha*

Where to begin? The most glaring stupidity is the premise of the article; that is, if men are inherently deficient, why would you want to go out with them?

low-self-esteem
Basically, this.

The author (who gave her actual name as if she’s proud of this tripe) then went on a 20+ paragraph rant about how stupid, scared, puerile, and gutless men are.

She laments, “There’s no door-holding, no hand-holding and definitely no free drinks. There’s no taking off hats or courting through invitations. There are no smooth moves, no jackets to dinner. There are no flowers, no tables by candlelight. But, most importantly, there are no dates.” Sounds reasonable, right? I mean you need a date if you’re going to be given flowers and taken to candlelit dinners and hold hands. The drinks aren’t free just because someone else pays for them, but we get the general idea…she’s describing courtship. Right?

Wrong. She then proceeds, “If you’re a single woman, you probably envisioned your twenties as a roaring social scene full of expensive dinners and lavish nights out. You probably thought you’d have a boyfriend, or at least a few dates a week.”

Uhh…at least a few dates a week?? Of expensive dinners? Several dates a week???

budget-bro
You failed math, didn’t you?

She made it a whole paragraph into her post before she begins a diatribe of such epic stupidity that I felt compelled to dissect it.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps one reason men in her peer group aren’t spending lavish amounts of money on her is because they don’t have the money to spendIn your 20’s, you’re figuring out life, facing the reality of student debt, trying to establish yourself in a career, and probably living in a sparsely furnished abode with roomies. She obviously thinks a string of Christian Greys are going to vie for the honor of dropping fat stacks on entertaining and feeding her, and that they’ll be polite about it.

christian-grey
50 Shades of Delusion

She writes of the failures of men, “They’ll make eye contact with you in the bar, but never come over. They’ll get your number, but never call. They’ll offer to buy you a drink, but never pay.”

 I don’t know, maybe they’re in the bar to drink and relax, not engage with a millennial harpy.

They’ll say a girl is hot, but never hit on her. They’ll text you for a week, but never ask you out. They’ll do absolutely everything but make a move.” Apparently they just aren’t doing the hitting on and the making of the moves in the exact manner which you preferbut they are indeed making moves. You just don’t like their moves.

like-attracts-like
Just saying

She then goes on to complain that men will chase a woman down to get her number, but wait a week to text as if the only possible item on his agenda that week should have been texting her. 

Never fear, though, because M.H. (millennial harpy) has the answer!

Now, the unfortunate paradox for a woman is that she must be the chased and the chaser. She must be the target and the shooter. She must play coy and simultaneously pursue him.” 

She must complain incessantly and expect lavish dinners several times a week…

“Anyone notice the problem here? Yet again, women are left to do all the work. We’re left playing both sides of the game because they’ve simply forgotten how to play.”

Pretty sure if you’re expecting a man to invest time, energy, and funds into wooing you, calling it a game is a sure-fire way to turn him off. 

keeping-score
Lavish dinners ONLY, you man-child!

M.H. has decided that her dating woes are due to the fact that “…  men don’t know what the hell they want from us….We must tell them what they want if we’re to get anywhere close to the goals we had for ourselves.” 

Yes. Because dating is all about yooouuuuuuu, ladies! I suppose the irony escapes her that she complains about men being weak, indecisive mama’s boys, but her solution is to treat them like weak, indecisive mama’s boys who just need her guidance so that they might make her happy.

I’m curious if she and others like her ever bothered to ask men what they wanted, or if they wanted anything at all. Like my friend Doug said, “[She]  seems to assume that “normal” men SHOULD court, chase after, etc. any woman by virtue of the fact that she is a woman? This is nonsense.” It’s just possible that some men aren’t interested in the chase, and even more likely that they aren’t interested in that particular woman. 

As if her generalizations thus far haven’t been insulting enough, she posits that men are simply cowards; “They’ll never admit it, but you scare the hell out of them. After years of social conditioning, we’ve been duped into thinking that men are the strong ones…TV lied to you. Men aren’t these masculine displays of strength and perseverance. They aren’t these persistent characters..”

chandler
Because media and society have been so kind to portray men as pillars of strength.

It’s possible that the prospect of spending time with the author of that piece is frightening, but not because men are cowards… it’s because they’re sane.

M.H. then goes on to regal us with the strength and intelligence of women, and how they are forever putting themselves out there for the good of society. She does this, of course, by denigrating the women who are raising boys into men who have the audacity to actively avoid her company.

We women have to stick together, ya know.

an-idiot
I’m sure that will never bite her in the butt

Perhaps my favorite part of this inane drivel passing for quality writing at Elite Daily is this: “In the society in which we live today, with Gigi Hadid and Miranda Kerr’s Instagrams readily accessible, women have got a lot to compete with…We can dream about Channing Tatum and Chris Pine all we want, but at least women are rational enough to understand that’s just not gonna happen. So we settle for the options we’ve been given and learn to work with what we have.” (emphasis added)

I don’t know why you have such trouble attracting a man, sweetie. It’s a mystery.

picard-no-you-didnt
She’ll settle for a lavish dinner and flowers.

The coup de gras in this misandrist rant is this assertion: “Men also know that if they don’t get up the nerve to ask you out, all they have to do is swipe right on Tinder to skip the date and get right to the good stuff.” 

First, if you are calling sex “the good stuff,” you obviously don’t feel you have much else to offer. Second, unless all these potential suitors are gay, there are other women enabling this behavior. Finally, if what you want are lavish dinners and he’s obviously only in it for sex, WHY DO YOU CARE THAT HE’S NOT PURSUING YOU? It’s simply a matter of wanting different things, and you need to get down off your sanctimonious soapbox about how indecisive men are. They made a decision. They chose not you. 

the-pain
The struggle is so real.

As my friend Ruth said, “Men don’t approach women for dates anymore, because they’ve been yelled and screamed at that women are too empowered to need or want them for more than an F-bomb. And the GOOD men are looking for so much more.” 

Men who are looking for more than no-strings copulation are willing to put effort into a date. They’ll provide flowers and candlelight and the whole nine…but they are not interested in playing games with a whiny little diva who wants to use them for their pocketbook before she decides to settle for not-Channing-Tatum. If you want to attract quality, you have to be quality.

buy-me-things
There are always rich, lecherous septuagenarians if being a decent human being proves too arduous. 

It’s true that society has supplanted courtship with hook-up culture, but it’s hardly singularly the fault of men. It’s also true that, like it or not, sometimes he’s just not that into you.

big-old-mess
You can always just treat yourself to dinner.

Sex, Love, and Porn

Porn is Everywhere

Last Wednesday on Nerd Rage, we discussed sexuality and pornography. Or, more to the point, Shannon and Ruth did while I sat there trying not to have a coughing fit. This was something of an odd conversation for me to sit out, however, due to my own personal issues.

Though I talk about this rarely, I have problems with pornography.

Honestly, this does not feel like much of an admission any more. In a world where people openly declare their love of porn and their fetishes and their kinks, talking about porn like it was something to be ashamed of seems odd. Strange though it may sound to those of you who have never touched, nor even considered touching, porn, it feels unusual to be ashamed of such a thing.

Sex is so ubiquitous in our culture, we hardly think twice when we see it. The idea that anyone should feel wrong for looking at or enjoying sexualized imagery is peculiar because sexuality is so common. The very first episode of Marvel’s Luke Cage shows Luke and Misty getting it on. For three awkward minutes, the viewer is treated to kissing, stripping, and groping (lots of gratuitous groping). And while that is all that is shown, the scene is so dominant as to be out of place in the rest of the episode and first act of the season.

Or take another show, one of my favorites, Suits.  In the second season, the hero, Mike, finally gets together with the cute and whip-smart paralegal, Rachel. As is usually the course in modern media, the first thing they do is have sex. At the law firm they work at. Inside of the file room. And, not only do they have sex, but they go all the way. The whole  act is depicted from start to finish (albeit not explicitly). However, all it would have taken was a few more lost pieces of clothing and a few less discrete camera shots and it would have looked no different to regular porn.

Yes, regular, because make no mistake, that scene, and thousands of others like it, are porn. They may not draw FCC lawsuits nor will they draw a lot of views on PornHub (though they are probably uploaded there too), but they are porn. They exist to titillate, to excite, to bring the brain to think of sex outside of a healthy context. They are everywhere. And when you are a kid, the images get imprinted on you and, at some point, you are going to want to see more.

Porn’s Power

Usually it starts out small. Maybe a sexy advertisement that caught your eye. Maybe a lad’s magazine left lying out or sitting in a rack in the shop. Maybe even a website, where one mis-click sent you to a page filled with images you did not expect. It rightly does not matter what it was. What matters is that you were exposed and went looking for more, to turn that first flicker of a feeling into something big.

When porn first blossoms into that flame, it is a rush. Your eyes and mind are filled with images that you not only have not experienced before, but probably should not be experiencing. It is a bombardment that saturates your mind and fills you with its perverse sense of pleasure. The glow of that flame consumes you…for a time.

At some point, the fire will lose its intensity, its strength. The fuel that made it will burn away, but you remember the feeling. You remember the excitement, the euphoria it brought you. You want more.

You seek more.

You find more.

The first few times, it might be more of the same. What you viewed before or something similar. Eventually, however, you get used to it. You become desensitized to it. It is no longer more that you need: it is different.

Thus begins the spiral of addiction and dependence. What starts as a foray into lingerie catalogs or the “artistic” nude slowly extends itself into deeper corners. Eventually, bodies are not enough. Soon, still images are not enough. At some point, normal sex is not enough. For some, this goes far, far beyond the bounds of the “decent” and the “acceptable.” Mercifully, it has not for me. For millions of others, however….

Porn and People

Porn consumption is commonly treated as perfectly healthy and normal behavior. Humans are sexual creatures, after all, and have we not spent far too long constrained under the thumb of restrictive, outmoded moral codes? We need outlets, places where we can enjoy sex as much as we want, when we want, in whatever way we want. If it means we spend an hour or two a day watching sex on a computer screen, what does it matter?

Sex may be the subject of porn, but sex does not occur in a vacuum. In order for sex to happen, it requires one very vital thing: people. It is not just sex that you watch in porn; it is people. It does not matter if it is a single woman, man, a couple, any combination or multiplication thereof, porn requires people.

The problem is that those people are not really people, not as far as porn is concerned. In porn, those people are just big breasts, a hot body, or a nice…er, endowment. The value of a performer is not in the parts that really matter: the mind, the personality, the heart. Their value lies solely on the body. They are a piece of meat hanging in a butcher’s shop. After all, no one who watched porn has ever looked at an actress and wondered how well she can perform calculus in her head.

Day after day, we parade these images before our eyes. Maybe at first we see people, in the same way you notice someone out of the corner of your eye. But over time, we stop seeing the person. We only see the bodies. We only see the sex. We consume porn like a frat boy consumes beer. He does not stop to savor the drink, or even realize that it is cheap swill, he only wants more because he knows it better and it is “fun.” We are deadened to the person on the screen; they are only there for our pleasure. Cheap whores to be used, abused, and cast aside twenty minutes later.

Performing in porn is considered to be empowering, a way to take charge in one’s life. This is bollocks. Sex unbound does not give strength; it takes it away. Without emotion, without heart, sex turns you into someone else’s plaything. They do not care about your feelings, nor do they care about your future. The fans do not care about a person; they care about a body.

Yet, more and more people, particularly young women, get into the porn business. Not through seedy studios in back alleys, where they will be abused and forced into acts that will break them mentally. Now, they are getting into the business through the use of webcams and a bit of spare time. Young people are now willingly and gleefully throwing themselves into the business of debauchery. They get attention and fame and a following and all they have to do is expose themselves to perfect strangers from the safety of their own homes.

Porn Kills Love

It is the tagline of fightthenewdrug.org, a website committed to battling pornography’s influence. But how exactly does porn kill love? What is it exactly that prevents porn from co-existing with love?

The question is, what is the relationship between sex and love? Of course, it seems that there is no relationship between the two these days. Sex comes first, second, third, early, late, whenever, with love only being a secondary thing you might find if you bang enough people.

This is wrong though, is it not? Sex is more than just physical contact, more than just animal pleasure; it is a bond. It connects people in ways beyond what more platonic contact would. Love is an integral part of sex, in part because the latter reinforces the former.  Without the former, sex flails about, trying to find a true connection where there is none.

When sex is treated merely as a thing, the mind is still looking for a connection. Even if we deny it to ourselves, no matter how much we want to tell ourselves sex is merely animal instinct, it is something deeper in humans.

This is where porn comes in, because porn is the pinnacle of loveless sex. Not only are the people in porn committing loveless sex, the viewer is joining in vicariously. But that desire for a connection remains. Porn cannot provide that connection, but provides a shadow of it. This shadow is part of what keeps the viewer looking for more, this vain, subconscious hope that this can fulfill us.

The deeper you go, however, the more your mind becomes skewed. Love and sex become blurred, as does the purpose of each. Porn rewrites our priorities. We start seeing the sexual act as the goal and our aim is to reach that point. The people we love become objects of pleasure and satisfaction: our pleasure and satisfaction. We become so immersed in porn that we forget the person and only see the body. We begin to objectify those who we love, treating them as possessions to be abused rather than adored.

Sex becomes an all-consuming vice. Where love would give it focus and contain it, porn turns it into a monster. Sating our lust becomes our goal and lust, on its own, is never sated. There is always a new experience, a new conquest., another high. Porn kills love because all the focus is on the sex and not on the human being beside us.


This was hard to write. One of the things that porn does to you, should it get its hooks into you, is drag you into a sense of normalcy. Porn becomes habit and, thus, becomes natural. This post was difficult because I had to keep stepping back and looking into the truths of the habits I have formed. I had to look at my own ugliness…and then realize that I am not the only one.

There are millions upon millions of people worldwide who are broken by porn and do not even know it. They live in a world that tells them it is healthy and appropriate and so never realize how far gone they are. Day after day, relationships are torn apart by porn, women and men ruined by its pernicious effects. For millions of others, lives are consumed by loneliness, as people controlled by porn feel no real need to form bonds outside of themselves and their computers.

Porn kills love.

Porn kills decency.

Porn kills honor.

Porn is killing humanity, one click at a time.

The Siege Mentality

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s  “The Return of the King,” Steward Denethor II is the leader of Gondor. He is described as a mighty and valorous man, like the kings of old. However, at the end of things, as the forces of Mordor threaten to destroy Minas Tirith, he gives into despair and attempts to kill himself and his remaining son Faramir upon a funeral pyre. It is only due to Pippin and Gandalf’s intervention that Faramir is saved, but the Steward himself is lost.denethors-pyre

To understand this, we have to go back before this, when we find out that Denethor has in fact been contending with Sauron in a battle of wills…and losing. The reason Denethor despaired at all was the fact that, through the Palantir, Sauron showed only that which the Dark Lord wished the Steward to see.

Denethor’s mind was filled with foul and frightening images.  Thousands upon thousands of orcs amassed on the plains of Gorgoroth. Mighty trolls marching out of the Mountains of Shadow. The vengeful men of the east and south, atop chariots and Mumakil, ready to lay the men of the west low. He was strong enough to resist these images, however. While he was prematurely aged by his battles with Sauron, he remained strong in the face of the deadliest of foes.

That said, it is safe to say that Denethor’s will was slowly eroded by that which Sauron showed him. His mind was slowly given over to the idea that Sauron’s forces were too great for him to overcome. He felt besieged long before the armies of Mordor ever left the Morannon or Minas Morgul. He was brave and valorous, to be certain, but still just a man, and men were ever inclined to fear. And fear for his own flesh and blood, for his only surviving son and heir, is what tipped him over the edge.

He only saw the images that were worthy of his fear and in the end they were his undoing.

It seems like the modern era is not much different.

Only today, Sauron is not the foe in question, but rather it is the media. The media which jumps on every single story where a black man is shot by police officers. It matters not what the circumstances are, only that the black community sees another “attack” on them. Time and time again, another story is brought up, portraying the black man as the innocent victim and the officer(s) as the relentless executioner.

And so, thanks to the media, the black community is much like Denethor was: afraid and besieged. The police are no more inclined to shoot black men as men of any other race, but the media shows us only those images which reinforce their narrative. Whereas the orcs of Mordor were a real and malicious threat, the police are being twisted to look like orcs, instead of our fellow citizens. The black community is being trained to see a villain where there is none.

If only we could come out of our chambers for but a minute, tear our eyes away from the Palantir that shows us nothing but grief and horror, and see the grander picture. Yes, there is true danger and corruption in the world, danger which ought to be rooted out. But this is not the whole story. It is not the whole of the reality.

Denethor saw the relentless armies of orcs arrayed before him, but what the Palantir blinded him to was the gleaming ranks of the men of Gondor. It is true that his home was threatened, but if he could raise his head up for but a minute, he would have seen that all was not lost, that valorous men would still fight to stem the tide of darkness. He would have seen that all hope was not lost; that if a single hobbit could have enough courage to swear fealty to him, then surely men twice that size could find it within them to fight back as well.

And so the black community must do the same. They must look away from their own Palantir and look to their own communities. They must reject the images that are impressed into them and see the world for what it really is, that the siege is really no siege at all. They must not burn themselves on their own pyre, but realize that, if they look beyond the here and now, there really is a world worth fighting for, and their enemies are not nearly as numerous as they think.

Enough With the Political Sanctimony

It’s no secret that the political atmosphere is rife with tension these days. It doesn’t help that both online and in the real world, there are paid trolls who are making bank off the divisiveness of various movements and campaigns. It is mentally and spiritually exhausting to deal with.

I’m simply tired of the political blame games. I’m tired of broad insults and assumptions.

Someone asked me earlier, in discussing ‘deplorables’ and ignorance and support for this side or that, “Who’s fault is that?” You know what I said?

Ours. It’s our fault.

It’s my fault and your fault. It’s everyone making sweeping assumptions and dispensing broad insults and NOT talking to the people around us in real life about the whys and hows of real life issues. We aren’t even aware of what issues matter most to the people living around us, working with us, and teaching our kids, or why those issues matter to them.

Seriously.

I think we need to step away from the internet and relearn how to speak to actual human beings. We need to be able to discuss, educate, and persuade without being complete asshats, because that’s pretty much how we all come across when all we do is obsess over who’s on the right side of politics all day online. We spend an inordinate amount of time arguing with people whose opinions we don’t esteem in the least, and whose lives we couldn’t care less about. And why don’t we care??

If you can’t see your opponent as a human being with value simply because they vote differently than you, then I’d say that says a lot more about you than it does about them. I certainly don’t like what it says about me, and as convinced as I am of my rightness, I realize that it makes no difference when I crow about it on the internet. That usually doesn’t change anyone’s mind, but it validates my opinion with every like and “Amen!” thrown my way…which is still pretty unproductive.

Being morally superior about our choice in candidate does far more harm than good. I can and will express my opinions, but I’m trying to avoid issuing insults to people I don’t even know. People whose lives, concerns, and values I can’t possibly understand. I know that their support may go to policies and candidates that I find detestable, but why should I then write them off as if they’re no better than dirt? Not knowing what led them to this choice, what good does it do to insult them now that they’ve reached it?

Basic decency has taken a critical hit in this election cycle. Even good people are so caught up in the frustration of it that they’re letting their pride and ego turn them into something unrecognizable. I get it, we’re all extremely frustrated! We’re all disappointed and disgusted and afraid. But we’re also all still human beings, and we’re more complex than “Trump voter” or “Hillary voter” or “Johnson voter”. We’re all far more complex than political affiliation. Our importance and worth extends beyond “ally” or “opponent”.

You may be right. You may have the most facts and the best arguments. You may have a brain the size of Canada.

But if you don’t have a heart, you’ve lost. It’s just that simple.

You’ve lost your ability to influence people who you will need on your side politically, and you’ve lost a crucial part of what it takes to be a decent person in general.

There’s a saying that goes like this: “You can be right or you can be happy.” Just look around you. Look in the mirror. It’s pretty clear that we aren’t choosing happy, and frankly I don’t wish to be allied with a bunch of sourpusses.

I simply cannot retain the good in me when my mind and mood is being poisoned by negative influences. I choose to be happy, and to be at peace.

 

Romans 12

 

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”says the Lord.

 

Bias and Empathy

Everyone has inherent bias.

In any number of ways and on various topics, we have a preconceived and prejudiced view of the world. We can’t help it; our perceptions are shaped by our own experiences. We can no more gain experience by listening to someone else than we can gain height by standing next to an NBA player. We may be able to gain understanding, but we cannot feel or think any differently unless we process other perceptions through the lens of our own known experiences. This is called gaining empathy.

The dialogue I see every day concerning societal ills (specifically for this post, racism and sexism) is simply unhelpful. We have foregone compassion to pursue some kind of experiential competition, a jockeying of anecdotes, if you will. I have been told I know nothing of racism because I’m white, or that I must have internalized misogyny because I care about a man’s voice in an abortion debate. I’ve even seen the argument that I cannot speak with any authority on race because I’m blonde. It is largely accepted in our society that some experiences and opinions hold more weight simply because they fit a certain narrative.

I don’t have to be black to know what racism is, I have experienced it first hand, and quite forcefully. I have no “privilege” that protects me from hate, because hate is a spiritual ill. It isn’t choosy about who it infects. To be told that my experience is less valid or that my opinion less valuable based on my race is in itself racist. To be told that I must always side with a woman in a debate over sexism is perpetuating sexism. These narrow parameters we insist on are limiting not only our dialogue but also our understanding. We are propagating the very things we claim to want to abolish by telling others they aren’t qualified to speak because they don’t fit our idea of a victim.

There is no way for someone else to know our experiences, or how those experiences affect us. The only thing they can do is empathize by relating to us through an experience of their own. I have never lost a child. I imagine it is unbearably painful, and my empathy for those who’ve lost a child is based on my experience of knowing love as a mother and of losing a nephew. That loss devastated me, but I know my love and my loss was less than that of his own mother, because I know that my love for my own children is greater than anything else I’ve ever known, including my love for other family members. It’s simply different. I can, however, relate based on my own experience. I can empathize. I can understand a little better because my experience is a little closer. I cannot know, however.

Likewise, when someone speaks to me of prejudice and oppression, I can relate through my own experience. When they tell me that the vehicle by which I come to relate to them is invalid, unwanted, and disrespected, they are essentially saying they do not want my understanding; they want my complete submission to their thought control. They wish to implant ideas and feelings that are untethered in either experience or reality. They don’t want me to relate, they want me to substitute my thoughts for theirs. This does not lend itself to realizing empathy, but it is pretty successful as a bullying tactic.

We used to be taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, or “Treat others how you’d like to be treated.” This valuable lesson has been twisted and now people will say, “Treat others how they treat you.” You’ve been hated? Hate others. You’ve been oppressed? Oppress others. You’ve been objectified? Objectify others. This ideology is poison. There is no empathy or compassion to be found in it, only cruel one-upmanship and tyranny. This hardness of heart is what we perpetuate when we try to shut others up and devalue their experiences by which they can relate to and understand us. Empathy and understanding are fostered in the shared experience. When we begin to relate instead of compete, we can have constructive dialogue.

Of course, our anecdotes and experiences may still be askew of absolute truth, but they are valuable in establishing a healthy consideration for others via the Golden Rule. Facts (via FBI crime data/statistics) absolutely undermine the rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter movement, but facts do not do nearly as much damage as their expressed disdain for police officers and their disregard for other races in general. Even the most altruistic among them cannot overcome the divide that has been deepened by the inability to value opinions outside of their own. It is much the same with modern feminists. The rampant misandry within feminism today has poisoned all conversation concerning sexism. They do not want to foster understanding, but to obliterate and subvert all opposition to their particular worldview.

It’s important to realize that we all have our own biases. We can’t help how our experiences have shaped our perceptions, but we also cannot force other people to embrace our biases. We have to get over ourselves if we wish to connect, and we have to find shared ground in order to truly foster understanding. We have to return to a philosophy of empathy which says “I do not want this to be done to me, so I must not do this to you.”