Monday, January 19, 2015

Agent Carter: Victimhood and Humility

[First of a series on female characters, feminism, and all that jazz. Haven't got it all worked out yet, but expect posts on The Phantom of the Opera, The New World, and more.]

When it comes to period drama, it's best to go British. Happily, despite the fact that Agent Carter is produced in America, it features the very British Hayley Atwell in the title role of Peggy Carter, which is nearly the same thing.
Taking up a few years after Captain America: The First Avenger left off, the first episode of Agent Carter finds Peggy (a luminous Atwell) struggling to readjust to civilian life. By what was surely some catastrophic bureaucratic error on high, Peg has been confined to an office job, serving coffee and pushing paper for a bunch of sexists. This has left her pretty depressed, feeling not only inadequate, but sorrowful, flashing back to her last moments talking to Steve Rogers. Thankfully, this morose introspection is interrupted when she's enlisted by Howard Stark (father of Tony, played by a delightfully mischievous Dominic Cooper) to help clear his name. Stark has been accused of selling weapons to the enemy - when, in fact, some super-sinister organization is behind it all.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's a Dangerous Business - Tolkien, Rob Bell, and Belief

Yesterday was J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday. I refer, of course, to the man who wrote the best novel of the 20th Century: The Lord of the Rings. And no, that fact is not up for dispute.

Or is it? Among the fantasy crowd, there's a stubborn set of naysayers who deride Tolkien's work as reactionary and cliched. There's some truth in both of these criticisms, but here's the thing: it's not really all that brave to be edgy. These days, it's more cliched to have a main character who is plagued by self-doubt, wrestles with abstract dilemmas, and is always seeking to "find himself," rather than a protagonist who is certain of anything. If they are certain of their faith, they're a religious nut job like Noah; otherwise we reshape Moses into a postmodern skeptic.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Gospel of Bono

In all the talk about how Bono may not be able to play the guitar again, the media has (shocker!) been missing all he says about Christmas. It's a pretty good way to start off the year.

At this time of year some people are reminded of the poetic as well as the historic truth that is the birth of Jesus. The Christmas story has a crazy good plot with an even crazier premise - the idea goes, if there is a force of love and logic behind the universe, then how amazing would it be if that incomprehensible power chose to express itself as a child born in shit and straw poverty.... 
But back to the Christmas story that still brings me to my knees - which is a good place for me lest I harm myself or others. Christmas is not a time for me to overthink about this child, so vulnerable, who would grow so strong... to teach us all how vulnerability is the route to strength and, by example, show us how to love and serve. 
To me this is not a fairy tale but a challenge. I preach what I need to hear... 

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