Raising Dion

Some of you might remember my old post about Man of Steel. One of the things that really touched me in that film was a scene that featured Clark as a young boy. It put my curiosity into overdrive. In fact, at the time I said

Could you imagine being a kid and having to wrestle with superhuman abilities? Could you imagine being a parent and having to raise a son who could burn you by looking at you? Kudos to the writers…Not only did I feel Clark’s vulnerability. I caught a glimpse of what Martha Kent must have felt as the mother of such a precious and powerful child.

In the end I was left asking the very questions that open the trailer for a brand new comic book, Raising Dion.

There’s so much to appreciate about this video.

Firstly, the casting made me smile. When I was younger I longed to see myself in some of the worlds that captured my imagination. In the past I’ve found it hard not to take the exclusion of non-white actors as an insult. I felt as though the folks behind the scenes were saying, “People who look like you aren’t good enough to experience this magic…”

I realize that we live in the era of Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Still, it’s truly heartwarming to me to see a Black woman depicted as a normal human being rather than a gaggle of stereotypes.

Secondly, again, I’m really intrigued by Raising Dion‘s premise. My knowledge of comic books and superhero lore isn’t extensive. However, I doubt that a parent’s take on raising a superchild is something that’s been explored in great detail. That isn’t to say that most stories in the genre don’t include poignant moments shared between a parent and her wunderkind. They do. Yet I’m used to relatives being relegated to the role of virtual bookends in a supercharacter’s life.

Overall, when I think of Raising Dion, there’s a lot of hope in my heart. The first issue of the comic book is available for download on its writer’s web site. I can’t decide which I’d want more–for it to be a TV series, or a film. At the very least I see Raising Dion as a story that is bound to inspire kids of all ages.

Book Review: Everyday Grace

Since I last returned to my hometown, I’ve taken time to slow down. In some ways I suppose I’ve embarked on a renaissance. Among other things, I’ve been pondering the roots of my faith.

In the midst of it all, there’s the idea of grace.

One source defines it as “the love and mercy given to us by God because [He] desires us to have it”.

But what about the love and mercy that we show our fellow human beings?

Enter Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson.

everydaygracecover

Its content is more quiet comfort than blustering revolution. Still, its message is welcome. In Everyday Grace, Ms. Thompson offers readers a reminder of a basic principle that we often forget. When it comes to interpersonal relationships, while we may hope for excellence, it isn’t realistic to expect perfection. Many of the minor frustrations that we experience occur because we hold each other to standards that are impossible to meet.

The book’s early chapters discuss human and divine tendencies. Thereafter, the author explores the role that grace plays in each of our major relationships. Whether we are with friends, spouses, or even members of the broader community–each of these relationships pose different challenges. Through it all, Ms. Thompson uses both scripture and anecdotes to remind readers of one fundamental truth: Only Jesus can be Jesus.

Everyday Grace is billed as a relationship book. However, thankfully, it’s not a typical one. Too often lists and saccharine self-help formulas are suggested as a means of improving one’s social survival skills. However instead, quite often people need exactly what this book provides–a new perspective.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 

What’s that, Claire?

Up in the sky, it’s a bird–it’s a plane….It’s a movie trailer featuring black actors actually playing legitimate people. You know, with emotions and lives, instead of stereotypes.

Or not.

I shouldn’t boast prematurely. After all, I haven’t actually seen this movie…But it looks ok. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the video below while I’m figuring out if I still know how to write.

Dear Conservatives: Do Better.

I’m disgusted…

I’ve been thinking that I ought to get back into my blogging groove for a while. Over the weekend, I started organizing a list of topics. My days were set. (Sorry I’m late. ;) ) The first thing I wanted to share with you was my take on an article I’d found via a link on Christianity Today’s website. The topic? Child abuse.

I’ll get to it later, though. Earlier today, I began to watch this interview featuring Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar.

In case you’ve decided not to watch, Mr. and Mrs. Duggar were being questioned by Megyn Kelly about their son Josh’s abuse of their daughters. I’ll admit it: My viewing experience didn’t last very long. Almost immediately after I pressed “play” on that video, my shoulders tensed up. As I listened to Ms. Kelly’s questions and the Duggars’ replies, something didn’t seem right to me.

For now, I’ll spare you my thoughts on that “something”. Instead, I’ll talk about the point when I decided I’d had enough.

Around almost 7 minutes into the interview, Megyn asked Mr. and Mrs Duggar if they’d considered turning their son in to the authorities.

Cut to Jim Bob’s answer.

“As parents, you are not mandatory reporters.”

I couldn’t go on much further after that.

Mr. Duggar believes that parents are “not mandatory reporters” of abuse. He does not think that they should feel obligated to tell the police if their children have been abused. Needless to say, Mr. Duggar’s words left me feeling a mix of disgust and worry. There are already countless abusers in the general population. Along with them are parents who either know about instances of abuse, or suspect it. How many of them will watch Jim Bob, hear what he says, and fail to protect their children because they don’t believe that they’re obligated to do so? How many are already doing nothing, and now feel justified by his claims about the law?

More importantly, what do conservative Christians–and even as I say that, some conservative Christians, because I can’t believe that all of them are that ignorant–have against doing the right thing?

The article I mentioned earlier disturbed me for one simple reason. (Feel free to read it here. Note that it was published before the Duggars’ interview, yet its content supports their line of thinking.) In spite of its seemingly neutral wording the only thing I understood was that it perpetuated a very harmful message.

If you don’t want to report abuse, remember that there are states where you can get away with keeping quiet.

I want to know: Where does this need to protect abusers come from?

Abuse victims deserve more than what some folks are willing to give in terms of integrity and justice. I can’t tell you how sad it is to me that in instances of abuse, certain Christians forget that

…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God…

(From 1 Corinthians 6: 19)

Every human body is sacred. It’s hard for me not to notice how quickly some remember that when complaining about a host of supposed worldly evils. Yet when it comes to protecting abuse victims, suddenly, they can’t be bothered.

Cosmo’s True Colors

A few nights ago on Twitter, a set of images got under my skin. Can you guess why?

Earlier this year, Cosmopolitan published an article entitled 21 Beauty Trends That Need to Die in 2015. Typical, right? But their bigoted twist caught my eye. As far as I could tell from the images above, only Black women were featured in the negative (R.I.P.) column. Hence, when I first saw the photos above, I assumed that they were demonstrative of a wider trend. However, it turns out that I was only partially wrong.

Last night, clarity came in the form of a link to the original article. My irritation was somewhat reduced after I saw that not all of the “R.I.P.” women are Black. There are, in fact, Caucasian celebrities depicted in that category.

Yet on the side captioned “Hello, Gorgeous!”, I couldn’t help but notice the inclusion of only one woman of color. Even then, I took careful note of who the non-white celebrity was–Nicole Richie, a woman who, like Rashida Jones, has a background that is not necessarily apparent to those who are unaware.

What do I make of this?

I’m not sure. I have the distinct impression that someone instructed Cosmo’s reporters to make an effort to be more diverse, and the photos in this article came about as a result of their attempt to do so. (I couldn’t help but notice that the piece contains a disclaimer, undoubtedly written after the recent kerfuffle surrounding its discovery.)

Yet I also know what time it is. To this day, more often than not, lifestyle shows and magazines promising tutorials for “all types” of hair end up offering examples for those whose locs fit into categories such as really straight, kinda-sorta straight, and short-and-straight. Time and again, staff of TV shows and magazines demonstrate little-to-no imagination when it comes to offering their audiences authentic diversity. Now, they may claim they don’t need the help that would be available to them if they hired minority writers. However content such as that found in January’s Cosmo article suggests otherwise.

Defaults and Diversity

I don’t read many scripts.

Just after I typed that, I looked to the skies, hoping that the Scriptwriting Gods don’t zap me. Apparently, I’m breaking a cardinal rule of aspiring screenwriters everywhere. (Rule #1: Watch ALL the movies. Rule #2: Read ALL the scripts…)

Quite frankly, I think it’s a waste of time. The public complains about folks in LA constantly churning out the same old thing. Is it any wonder, though, when insiders preach that writers should get into the industry by following a uniform set of practices?

Mind you, I’m not a complete rebel. Over the past while, I’ve glanced at a few screenplays. And there’s something that I’ve noticed.

It seems that there’s a pattern relating to Hollywood’s diversity–or lack thereof. From what I’ve seen, unless a writer specifies that a character is a person of color, chances are, he or she won’t be depicted as such. Hence, the racial default for a character in a North American movie is white. Casting directors and producers also have a hand in what a character ultimately looks like. What concerns me, though, is the fact that they have blinders on when it comes to people of colour.

Time and again I’ve wondered if any of them actually know any of us. As actual human beings, and not merely cheap tropes.

I think that it’s more than accurate for me to assume that those in charge of casting have ludicrous notions regarding what non-white actors are capable of. All of this adds up to a situation that is unfair—not only to actors, but the movie-going public.

Now, for many of you, I’m yammering on about something obvious. However, the fact that casting a Black/Latino/Native/Asian person as the girl or boy next door doesn’t occur to much of Hollywood infuriates me. And it made me think. The trends involving how minority characters are written are disturbing.

Consider this past round of Oscars. The following meme struck me when I first saw it

OscarsLackDiversity

Don’t get me wrong. I will be eternally thankful to Steve McQueen and The Powers That Be for sharing The Goddess Otherwise Known As Lupita with the world. But I want something more. The silver screen rarely reflects reality, especially when it comes to people of color. We are more than sidekicks or members of the subjugated class. We own bars, we drive cars, we struggle, we thrive, we live lives.

Someone on Twitter shared the following statement. I don’t know who originally wrote it, but I could shout it from the mountaintops.

thepowerofdiversity

While TV shows are catching up, in terms of reflecting humanity, I think that movies are light years behind.

And I know how things work. I realize that the films that are coming out over the next couple of years have already been cast. Hell, most have already been made. (In saying that, I’m not trying to make excuses for those who make films. I think that anyone with a basic knowledge of the industry will understand that I’m being realistic.)

Yet going forward surely something can be done. God knows, we’re worth it.

TGIT? #HTGAWM!!

Are you ready?

Tonight’s the night!

I’ve seen Scandal. The pilot, via iTunes, and…Snippets here and there. I know it’s good. EVERYONE knows it’s good.

But the show I’m waiting for is How to Get Away With Murder.

Viola Davis is back, looking better than ever. Not “classically beautiful” my ass!

“Be careful who you show your crazy to.”

“You call it crazy. I call it winning.”

Hells, YES!!

Seriously.

The last time I watched, I had a mini marathon. God knows, I miss staring at my TV, going

wtfcat

I might even stay up* and see it live!!

*Last year I recorded most of my Murder and watched it later on in the week.

The Bachelor

Let me give a moment to something I love to hate. Reality TV. That branch of media that reminds me of a regrettable friendship. So many of us have them. You know…The person we thought we could hang out with, but wound up running from…Sort of like a misogynist who finds himself trapped in a Women’s Studies class?

Take The Bachelor. Please. Deep down I despise the show, yet remain fascinated by it. If you’re looking for a fresh take on an old guilty pleasure, you might want to check out these resources.

1. This post by Stephanie Simons made spending time on The Bachelor sound every bit as exciting as I thought it would be. The show’s producers love to depict Bachelor alums as happy people who miss their sisters-in-charms. However Ms. Simons’ account blows that belief out of the water.

2. If you’ve watched The Bachelor for a while, you might already know about Reality Steve. I don’t know who leaks information to him–whether they’re cast or crew members. Still, he’s a spoiler source with a fairly decent record–right down to who the Bachelor picks in each season’s final episodes.

3. You may or may not know that Jason and Molly Mesnick have a podcast. I’ve only listened to an episode or two of This Is Reality and it’s actually been interesting. It’s one thing to think you’re manipulated from start to finish when you watch The Bachelor. It’s quite another to have that thought confirmed by people who have actually been on it.

(Here’s a fun fact I learned from the Mesnicks: Imagine the amount of time that the Bachelor(ette) spends with their potential mate(s) on the show, then divide that by…Any number you like. I was shocked by the (guesstimated) figure that Jason mentioned. Indeed, it’s probably worse than viewers have thought. The rare, genuine relationships that are formed in spite of the producers’ machinations are a fluke. As a kid I spent more time with my teachers in a week of school than these people do during 7 weeks of filming.)

A system that’s doomed to fail isn’t a system. It’s sloppy. Luckily for you and me Sadly, the Bachelor’s producers seem to know that they’ve created one of the most delectable piles of muck in the universe. It’s hard to believe that they would ever think of cleaning it up.

Let it Die: More on Modesty

Hopefully this will be my last post on this subject. In the future, instead of whipping up a brand new screed on modesty, I’ll point folks here.

I’ll be honest with you. After I wrote my notes for this post, I felt a sense of déjà vu. A search revealed that I’ve written about Christianity and modesty more than once. (If you don’t feel like reading any further, this post best summarizes my thoughts.)

So why mention it again?

A few nights ago I was involved in a social media discussion on modesty. Someone that I follow posted a link to an essay entitled “The Trouble With Christian Cleavage”. I saw it, and…I lost it.

Moments later as I went to bed, I started questioning myself. A part of me wondered if I was being a horrible person. After all, the person who wrote the article is just another human being. I know what it’s like to want to express yourself and have the words not come out the way you intended. (The author expressed this sentiment on his Twitter feed.) As I look back, I realize that in my first couple of tweets I may have sounded like I was angry at him. I’m not.

Rather, it’s the ideas that he was perpetuating.

In his post, the writer followed a familiar formula. Honestly, at this point I’m surprised there isn’t a test out there called The Christian Modesty Argument. If there were, I know the steps that would help people pass it:

1. Use pseudo-spiritual language in an attempt to manipulate women. Take a gentle approach, and yet…Leave your sisters with the impression that the way they dress is ruining the very fiber of men, other women, and Christendom itself.

2. Rely on a description of men that makes them sound utterly stupid.

In response to the now-deleted post, I read a host of tweets. Among them was a link to this essay by Nate Pyle. In an imagined discussion with his son, Mr. Pyle reminds his readers of the truth: that men are responsible for how they perceive what they see. This concept deserves to be popular in Christian circles, yet it isn’t. A part of me does not want to imagine why.

If nothing else, can we please abandon the notion that “men are visual creatures”? I’ve seen that phrase used multiple times. It’s horrible. Firstly, I resent the way it refers to men as “creatures”. I need to use a dictionary for a better definition, but in my mind, a “creature” is an animal—and not an intelligent one.

Secondly, I know the phrase is meant to convey the idea that men are visually stimulated. However, as far as I’m concerned, it might as well be saying “women don’t have eyes.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Women notice the way men look. If you don’t think so, you need help–and lots of it.

Really, at this point I think I’m just using different words to say what I did in the piece linked at the beginning of this post. Christians’ ideas concerning modesty need to progress. I look forward to the day when the plague of dishonesty ends for good.

Why Christian?

I mean, really. What’s the point anymore?

I know some people are asking themselves that question. Especially in an age where fundamentalism seems to be the dominant public face of the religion.

That question is also the title of a conference headed by Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber: Why Christian?

I found out about their gathering yesterday. It’s definitely piqued my interest.

When I saw the page featuring their speakers, I smiled.

If I may be frank with you, I’ve never seen so many women of colour on a conferenced helmed by two Caucasians. From what I’ve seen, such diversity is normally included when a conference’s founders are people of colour.

Although I still know very little about Why Christian?, there was something else about it that struck me as unique. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first…And then, Rachel dropped this tweet:

Confession: I don’t think I’ve ever been to a Christian conference (hereafter called a “CC”). Yet I’ve seen plenty of their websites.

Why is it that many CCs that have predominantly (white) male speakers are marketed to everyone within their demographic? (By “everyone” and “demographic”, I’ve seen pages for conferences for church musicians, youth leaders, you name it–yet there’s no discrimination among the gender of those who are expected to attend.) Meanwhile, when a CC lineup features a predominantly black or female group of speakers, then that’s exactly who I see in footage of its audience. (The only exception are a handful of Caucasians or men that I’ve observed.)

I used to assume that these unique attendees were family or close friends of those who are a part of said conferences’ mainstream. However I realize that in making such a conclusion, I’ve ruled out another option. What of the man or woman who has looked at a conference’s web page and said, “I am a Christian. I believe that the people who are going to to speak will be saying something that is relevant to my walk with God….”?

Hence, they decide to attend regardless of the risk of being perceived as an outlier.

Our perceptions of who belongs where need to change. Especially in religious circles. Or for the sake of this piece, Christian ones. Just because a speaker doesn’t appear to match perpetuated norms, don’t assume that you won’t learn from them.

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