A Few Thoughts on Diversity

diversity-embrace

So in the last few days youtube has erupted with controversy over the topic of diversity in literature. A youtuber who I do not follow or particularly care for posted a 22 minute video about how diversity was not needed and that all that mattered is good books not the diversity of the characters in said books. I honestly thought her video was kind of insane so I will refrain from posting it here and giving her more views but it is easy to find if you want to.

Anyway, I thought I would bring up a quick point that I think often makes these discussions very messy.

It’s a question of MACRO vs MICRO

Here’s what I mean by that-

In the world of economics there is microeconomics, which is the study of an individual, group or company. This gets you into the nitty gritty of one person’s spending habits or the sales forecasts of a particular business.

Then we have macroeconmics, which is the study of a national economy as a whole. This is where we talk about GDP, trade numbers, national unemployment rates and federal interest rate changes. These are broader, longer trends.

So how does this relate to books and diversity?

Well, it is important to talk about diversity on a macro level.  To look at trends and statistics so that hopefully we can implement small changes to make things better.

I don’t know anyone that thinks having more diverse characters is a bad idea. For example, I’ve always been a defender of faith-based films because I think it is good for that audience to have films that they relate to. It feels good to read a book or view a movie and find characters that feel and look like us. Is not part of the reason we go to the cinemas is to occasionally have someone like us staring back at us? To see our world in new and interesting ways through storytelling?

Just this year I really enjoyed Ghostbusters and for me it was cool to see a woman like Melissa McCarthy in kind of a superhero role. She looks a little like me, and I’ve never seen anyone who looked remotely like me in a superhero movie. That was cool. I can only imagine how much more important that is for someone of a minority race or sexuality.

All of these issues are good to discuss so we can support those books and films that do showcase diversity. Now they still have to be good movies/books. Don’t get me wrong. Niche audiences should not be placated too, but we also should seek out those books and movies that do it right.

Where we get into problems is when we start mixing in a micro level perspective in this discussion. For example, talking about the lack of representation at the Oscars is a good thing because it is looking at movies as a whole and how we can do better.  However, when a particular movie is focused on and declared as racist because it is not diverse that’s taking a macro discussion and making it micro. Certainly racist movies and books exist and should be called out but just because an individual movie does not have a diverse cast does not make it racist.

I also think that authors and directors should be free to write about any culture or race that they want but they should do the job well. I hated Me Before You for a lot of reasons but one was how obvious it was the author had never met a person with quadriplegia before writing her novel about one. That’s irresponsible in my book. If she had done a good job than more power to her. Harper Lee was a white woman from the south and wrote one of the most stirring Civil Rights novels ever. But again we are talking about individual books, which is a micro-level discussion not the macro that is really effective.

It also should be noted that many times those of different ethnicities or races require no real adaptation to include in a book or movie. I mean when I loved Clueless growing up I never thought about Dion being black and Cher being white. They were just 2 girls in a funny movie I liked. 

I do think the macro discussions are making a difference. I don’t know much about the publishing world so can’t speak for that but in movies I am seeing changes. Look at Marvel for example. We are getting Black Panther with a black cast and Captain Marvel with their first female superhero led movie. That’s great!

Next year we get Wonder Woman and I pray that will be handled well. We have Oceans 8 coming out with an all female cast. That has potential to be great. Star Wars has been outstanding in featuring women and a diverse cast in both Force Awakens and Rogue One. Disney has recently had success with Elena of Avalor- their first Latina princess and Moana is going to be an islander with a more natural size and shape to her body. That’s a good thing!

We still have a long way to go but I don’t think we get anywhere when we focus on the micro instead of the macro.

ps. I also want diversity for purely selfish reasons. I get tired of reading the same types of characters with the same backgrounds. Same holds true for the movies. Shake it up!

So that’s what I have to say about that!

What do you think about what I have said? Do you see the difference between a micro and macro discussion? And how do you think we can improve diversity in both movies and books?

Sadducees and Pharisees

saducees-and-phariseesDuring the time of Christ there was a group of leaders called the Sadducees and Pharisees. These were Jewish leaders that believed in following the letter of the law. Repeatedly these leaders would accuse Jesus of blaspheme for breaking laws such as healing on the Sabbath. In Mark 3:1-6 they even use it as motivation to plot the death of Jesus:

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.

And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.

And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.

And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

I think it is sometimes easy to look at these people in the scriptures and think we are so much better but are we really? I recently had an experience where I was judged harshly for my interpretation of my faith. It’s a long story but just trust me it was extremely hurtful. I was told I was unworthy, sullied with filthy content,  and a bad example to youth. I felt upset, angry, devastated, frustrated and confused.

But I never for a second doubted my choices and how I live my faith. I know I am temple worthy and that God is happy with my life. If I didn’t feel that way I would change because nothing is more important to me than that. However, this person was making me feel ashamed for my choices and reducing my carefully nuanced positions into the harshest of extremes.

Then I thought about the Sadducees and Pharisees. They not only lived by the letter of the law but they created their own rules and then enforced them as if they are God’s law. Sometimes that happens in our modern church and it definitely happened in my situation. Jesus taught certain covenants needed following with exactness such as baptism, but he also taught the spirit of the law.

In Mathew 7:21 he said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

What is the will of the Father? That’s a tough question we each must answer for ourselves, but at the very least shouldn’t we be open to other people’s reasonable interpretations? Sure we have those core doctrines and principles but many life choices are up to the individual to lay out in the best way they know how. I learn from how other people interpret the faith and find truths I can often embrace. I think that’s what the spirit of the law is all about.

In 2 Cor 3:6 we are told to become ministers “not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but THE SPIRIT GIVETH LIFE”

What was Jesus’ response to the Sadducees and Pharisees? He kept on doing what He was doing and “they held their peace”. He did feel anger maybe a tiny bit like I did, but He also felt grieved, and continued doing His work of healing.

As is always my desire in life, I seek to follow Christ, and I know that my life choices while not perfect, are acceptable before the Lord. And I am going to shut out the Sadducees and Pharisees and continue to do the work of watching and reviewing movies, blogging, swimming and everything else I attempt in my life. This is what gives me life and it is my spot that the Lord needs me to work in.

And that may involve a carefully selected R rated movie on occasion, and you know what God is ok with that!

Friday 5: Songs from the 80s

This week for the Friday 5 we were asked to pick a decade and give 5 of our favorite songs from that decade. I thought about doing a more obscure decade because I had previously done the 50’s which was  ton of fun but nothing was really speaking to me so 80s it is. I have actually done the 80s once before but as it is a favorite decade of mine I certainly have 10+ songs that I love from that decade.

So here are the 5 I came up with. I think you will agree with me these are 5 iconic songs from the 80s:

Here’s a review of the 5 songs I picked:

  1. Everybody Wants to Rule the World- Tears for Fears: This song has such a great hook and draws you into the song. It’s very catchy. I feel like this song isn’t talked about in the great 80’s songs and I’m not sure why.
  2. I Want You to Want Me- Cheap Trick: I guess this song was technically released in 1978. Oops! Still it feels like an 80s song. It’s the kind of song that is great when driving with friends.
  3. Rio- Duran Duran: I got introduced to Duran Duran fairly recently and I love their songs! They have the feel of the era but creative lyrics and some unusual songs. This is one of their more mainstream songs but it is catchy and fun to listen to
  4. Just What I Needed: The Cars: Nothing seems more like the 80s than The Cars. They are so great at writing catchy hooks that you can’t help but hum along to.
  5. Once in a Lifetime- Talking Heads: A bit of an experimental group but they have some mainstream songs as well. It was hard to get a good 25 second clip from one of their songs because they tend to ramble.

Teaser Tuesday: Still Alice

still-aliceI haven’t done a Teaser Tuesday in a while. I don’t know if you guys enjoy them or not but I thought I would give it another try. This week’s book is for a book club I am in.  It is called Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Many of you might have heard or seen the film adaptation which Julianne Moore won an oscar for.  It is a pretty accurate adaptation and I think both are pretty gripping stories. Still Alice is about a woman named Alice who is a Harvard professor and great intellect. One day she is running and she can’t remember where she is or how she got there. This starts to happen more and more until she is ultimately diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

What I appreciated about this story is how cut and dry it stayed.  There isn’t much emotional manipulation. Instead of dramatic scenes of loss we see a quiet scene where Alice ends up in her neighbors house wondering why her kitchen looks different.  Lesser writers would have made it heavy-handed and preachy. Genova clearly did her research into dementia and it feels real with subtle changes that feel authentic. This makes it more devastating to see a woman who is prized for her intellect lose it bit by bit.

I don’t know if the prose is that great in Still Alice. It’s not poetic or particularly beautiful to read but it builds the disease and the characters response in a layered moving way that worked for me. I also appreciate the portrayal of the caregivers. Alice’s husband still has to worry about his own career and isn’t available for her every beckon call. Her children are flawed and not always as understanding as they should be. It felt like a real family and elevated it from the typical ‘disease of the week’ type stories.

There is a little bit of profanity if that bothers you.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

still-alice2Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page (or I like to do the page I’m currently reading)
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

This week my sentence is on 15:10 of the audiobook so right at the start:

“Then about 40 minutes into the 50 minute presentation she became suddenly stuck…She simply couldn’t find the word. She had a lose sense for what she wanted to say but the word itself alluded her. Gone. She didn’t know the first letter or what the word sounded like or how many syllables it had. It wasn’t on the tip of her tongue. It was gone”

Does Still Alice sound like something you would like to read? It’s tough sometimes to read about dementia as that is something we all fear but I found it worthwhile and am glad I read it.

Here’s the trailer for the movie if you want to see that:

Alice in Wonderland Tag

One of the fun things about being a blogger or youtuber is participating in tags! This is where a list of questions is created and then various people give their answers. I have created a few tags but most successfully with my friend Aly at the Little Librarian we did The Little Mermaid Tag a few months ago.

Now I have created another tag for us to do called The Alice in Wonderland Tag! My friend Emily joined with us and I created 18 questions that use Alice in Wonderland as the catalyst. I recently read Alice in Wonderland for the first time and really loved it. I found it charming, funny and magical. You can read my review of the book here. Also to see my Alice in Wonderland Disney and Burton reviews go here.

Here are all 3 of our videos and I will put the questions below. If any of you want to participate please do and let me know what the links are so I can promote them. Have fun going down the rabbit hole!

Questions:
1. Wonderland- What is your favorite fantasy land in movies or books?
2. White Rabbit- What’s something you were late to checking out that others raved about? And one you still haven’t watched/read others love?
3. Cheshire Cat- Who is an actor or actress that you think has a great smile?
4. Mad Hatter- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done? (Keep it clean!)
5. Tea Party- What’s your favorite kind of tea or hot drink?
6. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum- What’s your favorite duo in movies or books?
7. Queen of Hearts- Who is someone in movies or books that should be lovely but is really a villain?
8. Caterpillar- Do you have a poet or philosopher who inspires you or makes you think?
9. Eat Me- Favorite cookie
10. Drink Me- Favorite drink- alcoholic or regular
11. Would you rather be very large or very small?
12. What’s a book or movie that made you cry oceans?
13. Jaberwocky- Favorite mystical creature from book or movie
14. What cinematic version of Alice do you prefer best? Burton/Animated/Other?
15. What is your favorite character in Alice in Wonderland?
16. If someone asked you to pitch an Alice in Wonderland movie/TV show what would you suggest?
17. Why do you think Alice in Wonderland has remained so popular for so long?
18. If you could go to Wonderland would you and what would you most want to see?

Unnecessary Enemies

Last week I had an interesting experience over on my youtube channel. I reviewed a film called Southside with You. This is a romantic comedy about President and Mrs Obama’s first date. As you all know I am a conservative who strongly disagrees with the president on nearly every major issue. As a bit of a joke I even wore my Romney t-shirt from the 2012 election to do my review. The interesting thing is that I actually liked the film. It’s not groundbreaking but a solid, sweet romantic comedy.

What? You say? How could I like a movie about the Obamas? Well, just because I disagree with the President on policy doesn’t mean I think he is a terrible person. From everything I can see he is a good person and he and Michele have a healthy solid relationship. Why wouldn’t I want to find out about their first date? The script was solid and it felt like an authentic voice of a young Barack and Michele. There was one moment where I felt the writers couldn’t help but aggrandize their hero president but for the most part it was about 2 people going on a date and that’s it.

The interesting thing is I posted my review and the next day lost 10 subscribers which is a big dip for me (I just can’t seem to get to that big 1000 sub number!). I don’t know if it was because I said nice things about the president so I upset my conservative viewers or because I wore a Romney shirt and upset my liberal viewers. Either way it is very silly.

Why do we have to turn people who think differently into an enemy? What is so wrong about a conservative person learning and admiring something about a democratic president? Why must we be so partisan to not even listen or admire an opposing view in any way? It’s all nonsense if you ask me! I have actually read both of President Obama’s books and I can see why he thinks the way that he does. I don’t agree with him but I can see his perspective. And isn’t there a famous quote about you never understand your own argument until you can adequately explain your opponents?

I’m not saying Southside with You is some kind of masterpiece but it was an enjoyable romantic comedy.  It certainly was much better than say the Tyler Perry romantic comedies often served up to African American audiences. But the target demographic shouldn’t really matter. We should all be able to appreciate good writing and acting and want to learn more about our elected leaders.

I think it is kind of sad I lost those 10 subscribers but I have gained 6 of them back so good riddens!😉 Life is too short to create enemies where no enemy exists and to not listen to all kinds of perspectives. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

You Saw That?…

rating-r

Obviously by the title of this blog I am LDS or Mormon. As such I am counseled to try and monitor my media choices and look for things inspiring and free from degrading content. This is obviously getting harder and harder to do all the time but I try to make choices that I feel exist comfortably with my faith. Yet some people are critical of me when they see I am seeing one movie and not seeing another film. Aren’t Mormon’s not supposed to see R rated movies? I must get that question a million times, so I thought I would explain my process and how I determine what to see and not see.

First, I don’t believe not seeing R rated movies is an essential doctrine of my faith. There is no temple recommend question that asks about R rated movies and there is nothing that expressly forbids seeing them except in counsel to youth who technically shouldn’t be seeing them anyway unless over 17. We are taught to get the data, follow the spirit and make the decisions in media for ourselves. Other people chose to not see R rated films and I respect that and for the most part people respect my choices also.

Second, the MPAA is corrupt and stupid. An R rating from the MPAA is practically meaningless in my eyes. Many PG-13 films are more offensive than R rated films but careful editing will barely make it into a PG-13. There are so many sneaky things filmmakers can do that will get a PG-13 rating. For instance, if someone is shot and we don’t see blood that can still be a PG-13. Is it really so much more violent because we see blood? They are still getting shot.

Or a movie can have 3 or 4 swear words, like The Kings Speech or Bully, and get branded with an R rating when something can be full of objectionable content and get a PG-13. It’s nonsense if you ask me. You know what I do? I don’t trust a corrupt ratings board. I get the information myself from www.screenit.com and make the decision for myself of what I want to see. I think that is actually a much better way to live my faith than trusting an organization. I make the decision for myself.

I honestly don’t see that many R rated movies. People think there are way more than I actually do. Last year for 2015 I saw 12. There are so many movies I chose not to see because of content and I’m okay with that. I didn’t see Deadpool, The Witch, The Nice Guys, Don’t Breath, The Hateful Eight, Green Room- all films with excellent reviews that I wish I could have seen.

Sometimes I will take a risk like I did with the Revenant. It was at a screening so I wasn’t’ able to do the same kind of research. It was pretty brutal but I’m still glad I saw it.

Third, I know what bothers me. I was thinking about seeing Don’t Breathe but then I heard there was a rape scene in it. That bothers me, so I opted out. There is a rape scene in Batman: the Kililng Joke but it is all off screen and implied and I hated that movie so I guess that was a risk not worth taking. I tend to avoid horror movies but occasionally there will be one I like such as 10 Cloverfield Lane and Ex-Machina. I also don’t like movies where there is a stalker or some other kind of evil influence.

I also know to avoid any film with extreme nudity, sacrilege, and vulgar humor. I can’t remember what the film was but I was researching one recently and it had full frontal nudity and I said ‘nope!’ Skipping that one! I promised my blog readers I’d see every animated film of 2016 but then Sausage Party proved to be more than I could rationalize. I had to say no but I was able to get an amazing guest blogger to do a review, so everything worked out.

I personally chose to not see films edited unless on a plane or something. I know some like doing this but I want to be in or out. If I can’t in good conscience say I have seen the film on my review than what’s the point? There’s plenty of good films out there that I don’t need to see those movies.

The hardest thing to take into consideration is context. To me there is a clear difference between sensuality with a married couple and a stupid fling. Sex is an important part of married life. I think it can figure into storytelling and not be over the top or gratuitous.

Same thing with violence. Historical violence in a battle scene is a lot different than a scene where a person brutally stabs another person. You have personal violence and battle/historic violence.  It’s not the same thing in my eyes.

I also usually ask the question of an R rated film- “Is this important?”. Meaning is this just a silly comedy or is it a movie that will really make me think. 12 Years a Slave for instance has disturbing stuff.  There is no doubt about it but it should be disturbing!  It’s about slavery for goodness sake. To me a film like that is worth it because you grow as a person understanding our history and culture.

Sometimes I just won’t have a good spirit about a film and I can’t even put my finger on it. People may find that arbitrary but no critic sees every single movie. They all have to pick and chose. It just so happens that some films that others love are ones I chose to not see. Trust me, I still see plenty of movies.

So for me there isn’t a doctrinal problem with the films I see. I try my best to do my own research about the content and make an informed decision instead of trusting a corrupt organization like the MPAA. I decide for me what I see! I recognize context and the amount of content. Is it gratuitous or does it really matter in the storytelling?  All of those factors go into my decision.

How do you make your media choices? Do you have a system you use like Screenit.com? I would love to hear more.