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 I’ve never openly committed to a religion since officially leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s partly because I know there isn’t much of a point. Some faithful Mormon will add my name to the membership rolls again after I am dead, whether I want them to do so or not. The second part is I’ve not found an exact match. I appreciate the spiritual teaching of the Dao De Jing, but I will not call myself a Daoist.  I don’t think I know enough about the philosophy, and I know the religion is even more complicated.  I’ve dabbled with Neo-Paganism and Roman Reconstructionist religions. I like the simple theology of Judaism, but I don’t feel the need to convert.  (My feeble attempts at repairing the world [tikam olam?] are difficult enough without having 603 additional rules to live by.)  My understanding of Buddhism depresses me, although it’s possible I’ve misinterpreted the religion’s teachings. The closest I’ve come to anything is Asatru, but I have some problems with the label as well as some of the religion’s participants.  I’ve not found good ways to address the racism and Antisemitism that runs through the related offshoots.  The warrior culture that tends to run through the music and adherents misses the point as most of the people who worshiped these gods weren’t warriors.  Perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve encountered is the lack of spirituality I’ve found in many people who claim to be adherents.

The charges of racism and Antisemitism are not new, nor entirely unfounded. Many members of the white religious population claim to be followers of Odin, Woden or Wotan and believe he is the true god of the white race, whatever that mean.  Germany’s Nationalist Socialist Party used this imagery to bolster the image of a mythic Germany that never existed. (Yes, the German tribes, including the Angles and the Saxons, worshiped the Norse pantheon before their conversion to Christianity.  Check the English weekday names if you don’t believe me.)  Even though I know it’s not the case for most people who claim to be Asatru, I could never entirely overcome this connection. Odinism, as it is called, is distinct from Asatru, because most followers are hard polytheists and not overt racists.  There have been attempts to combat this notion, including a story called “Asatru and the KKK.”  I suffer from racial prejudices. All humans do. It doesn’t make me unique or special.  It just makes me ashamed of myself and my species.

Racism and Antisemitism are good reasons to not want to be associated with any group, but the warrior culture is also problematic. It is hard not to get the impression that some of these people are simply finding a way to do a live-action version of Dungeons and Dragons that comes complete with carrying ceremonial weapons. (I am not talking about the Mjolinir pendants many adherents wear. I have no problem with an innocuous symbol.)  However, only one of the warrior gods was worshiped heavily by most of the people, and he also happened to be the god of thunder, and in charge of various other types of weather. It seems that focusing on one tiny part of a pantheon in a religion that is attempting to reconstruct the original worship of these gods should focus on all aspects of their worship. Even the most militant religions are not dedicated to fighting all the time

Focusing on war also misses the point of the mythologies. If you see life as a struggle against a series of elements, the conflict of the Aesir and the Vanir against the giants serves as a metaphor for constantly having to fight against the forces of nature for survival. Ultimately, this battle, like the struggle of the gods, ends. The gods losing at Ragnarok, the ultimate battle, is a metaphor for death.

As annoying as the other two aspects are, they are not what bothers me the most. The lack of spirituality is disturbing.  Like many of their counterparts in other religion, the adherents confuse spirituality for religion.  Most Asatru do not suffer from a lack of religiosity. They offer mead, milk and other beverages or foods to the gods on a regular basis. They pray and go through the appropriate rituals.  Rituals may be important, but they do not give a person the subtle power that Lao Tzu talks about in the Dao De Jing. I do not have a good definition of spirituality, but I know it when I feel it. Spirituality runs through the original Star Wars trilogy. It can be found in parts of the Matrix. Elektra, considered to be one of the worst Marvel movies since Howard the Duck, was very spiritual.  Movies like Noah, Left Behind, and Fireproof are great examples of fantasy and sci-fi movies with religiosity that do not contain an ounce of spirituality.  If I follow a religion, I want to be a better person because I follow its tenets. I also want the feeling of subtle, mysterious power that makes everyday life easier.

Practicing Heathens are able to counter every one of my objections easily.   A reader needs to understand that these are only my objections to adopting a specific religious label. I may find out that something else is more appropriate for me, but I've also decided it isn't that important right now.

 

sinisterporpoise: (Default)
After watching a long-winded, idiotic rant about Frozen, I started thinking about how many movies I watch would actually pass the Bedchel test. Now, I don't select which movies to watch based on  this comic's criteria. If I did, I'd have missed out on some of my favorite films, including the original Star Wars trilogy.  I also have problems because many films catered to a female audience would also fail this test if the conditions were applied to the male characters in the film.  I simply believe a lot of these films are catered to gear to an audience, and that the director is not trying to make a political statement.  Disney was obviously trying to appeal to little girls with Frozen, and it's not a surprise the movie's main characters are female.

Now, which movies have I watched recently that would pass the test?

Frozen
Cake
Divergent
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Carrie

Near Misses:
Dead Before Dawn (It has plenty of female characters, but they're almost always talking about the men in the film.)

Obviously, since my list also includes The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, Pacific Rim, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Dark Knight Rises and X-Men: Days of Future Past I'm not selecting which films I watch based on any political criteria. I want a movie to be entertaining. The only standard I have for a summer film is that it has to look like I would enjoy it.  Sometimes my initial judgement of the film is wrong.  For example, I thought the Dark Knight Rises was far more confusing than it needed to be, and The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies contained many scenes that actual physics would not allow. Almost all of the blatantly physics-defying scenes featured Legolas, a character who isn't even in the book on which the movie is based.

The only real complaint I have about the current movie scene is that Marvel's Ant Man got his own movie and Booster Gold, a far more interesting character from DC, has yet to be given his own TV show.

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 I went out to see Cake last night. I am unaware of how I became aware of this film.  I probably came across it due to my obsessive nature.  In the past few months, I've read a great deal about fibromyalgia and chronic pain.  I did not expect to come away from the film with the same feeling I got from watching The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies or Guardians of the Galaxy.  I expected the film to be a painful and sometimes funny portrayal of someone dealing with chronic pain.  It is indeed that, but the movie suffered from a few flaws that made it less enjoyable.

The movie did contain some realistic elements. It is also one of the few films where the main character wears little to no makeup.  (The use of some make up to show the scars she has is assumed.) The viewer sees Claire, Jennifer Anniston's character putting her hands along the walls  to support the pain in her leg.  At one point in the film, viewers see the title character lying in bed moaning in pain, unable to go to sleep until she takes multiple narcotic painkillers.

Starting with a suicide is a good, if somewhat cliched way to start any dark comedy.  As group members are asked to share their feelings, Claire is the only one who congratulates the deceased member for having the guts to do what none of the rest of them could. When she returns home, she is kicked out of the group.

Later that night, she has a vision of the deceased woman.  The visions leader her through a series of increasingly severe suicide attempts.

From a structural standpoint, the movie did not keep a consistent tone. Its as if the writers wanted to avoid taking them where the plot was leading them.  While it is understandable that dark comedy writers may not want a sad ending, it makes the work weaker artistically.  A sudden epiphany leading the character to a moment of redemption does not make sense. It does not even make sense in Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which is a far superior redemption tale.  (Although I wanted someone to kill the title character about 50 pages into the first book and kept wanting someone to do so until the final pages of the first trilogy.)

Cake also touches on prescription drug and alcohol abuse, although it never says the character is addicted to the Percocets she seems to swallow like candy.  Now, not everyone who has chronic pain becomes addicted to these painkillers. Some people avoid them entirely, but the main character's painkiller and alcohol abuse are used to suggest that she's not dealing with her real problems.  Several cliches exist here, as well, including drug-seeking behavior.  In order for the story to make sense, the viewer must believe that she uses drugs and alcohol to avoid her psychological problems. Nowhere is the suggestion that the pain may continue even if she does everything her doctor tells her to do.  Some people may come away with the film with the impression that all long-term prescription painkiller usage invariably leads to addiction. Many patients try to avoid addiction and will fully explore other relief options.

What did Cake get right?  The main character is often shown in a disheveled state wearing a loose-fitting sweater and what appears to be a sports bra.  If we accept that she suffers from depression as well, the lack of attention to hygiene is understandable.  If the pain goes through her entire body, her wardrobe is also understandable.  

Throughout the course of the movie, we learn that she has driven multiple people out of her life, with the exception of her housekeeper.  If the story explains what caused her condition early in the movie, I missed it. At the end, you do finally learned what happened to her, and an additional information as to what Claire to her depressed state.

Cake was not a great movie. It had some realistic moments, but it also suffered from structural flaws that can be avoided by giving an unhappy story a happy ending. Redemption tales are better IF you drop hints throughout the story that the character is trying to change his or her situation.




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