JOKER

SYNOPSIS

Joker is, at its heart, a movie about awakening. Proverbial loser, Arthur Fleck, finds himself gradually coming into a new type of sanity as the delusions of his world unravel before him and he becomes the infamous Joker.


SPOILER ALERT


THEMES

Freedom is destruction

From the beginning of Joker, we see Arthur as a victim. The very first scene is that of Arthur being unknowingly oblivious to the true nature of the world. He slings his sign upon the busy streets of Gotham and dances merrily to the music of street performers.

It is here we witness the movie’s first act of violence. Arthur is attacked by a band of marauding teenagers who steal his sign and eventually brutalize him in an alley. He is portrayed as a helpless victim and has come to except that “a victim,” is the role that life has planned for him. However, one gets the impression that, this violent act isn’t meant to be a specific aggression against Arthur, but rather that of a harsh invitation to view the world as it truly is…. a world where violence is inevitable.

Not only is the city he inhabits overrun by crime, and ripe for revolution, but almost every person on the ground level seems to believe that this is the way the world is meant to be. The only outliers are the rich, embodied by Thomas Wayne, who are out of touch.

To this point, Arthur is as his name would suggest… A. Fleck (no. not Affleck… sorry I had to) an insignificant piece of something to be brushed off. He has delusions of grandeur and visions of the life that could be, but he cannot seem to fit into the world that is. The idea of violence is not foreign in this world but he truth is that it is Arthur’s idea of happiness that is foreign. He is seen as naive and his victimization is a natural conclusion of naivety.

When Randall, a coworker, gives Arthur a gun and encourages him to protect himself from future attacks, it begins to fuel Arthur’s imagination about his place in the violence. This gun becomes the vehicle by which Arthur perpetrates his crimes and it’s continued evolution in Arthur’s mind should be of note. The gun is the fruit in Arthur’s garden and it allows him to awaken his full potential.

Here enters a potential love interest for Arthur. Her involvement is minimal in truth, but her place as inspiring Arthur to evolve cannot be understated. Sophie’s consent to his growth is of utmost importance to Arthur. This is illustrated by Arthur’s fantasy that begins when Sophie (notably derived from the Greek term Sophia and the Gnostic character and harbinger of spiritual awakening) at one point mimes a violent suicidal act as a way of commiserating about the state of Gotham.

This inspires Arthur and he repeatedly mimes this act as an inside joke between them. Throughout the film, we begin to see Sophie encourage him through his metamorphosis. This begins to apex after he makes his first kill. An event that causes Arthur to a point of sexual arousal, which she gratifies. She is his cheerleader. But not is all at it seems. She is an unstable narrator… a delusion. He has shaped a one time encounter with a neighbor in the elevator into a prop for his fantasies. He is not awakening and blossoming through relationship but instead is fantasizing and retreating further into his mind.

Though Arthur is awakening to the world of violence through outright homicide, he still hasn’t embraced his place in the world fully. The homicides in the subway are more crimes of passion that are reactions to bullying than a full premeditated participation in the world of Gotham. Though it is true that Arthur kills the bankers from a sense of self preservation and even anger, he hasn’t yet come to see the violent act as desirable. Later, he skews the narrative with a hindsight musing that they deserved to die. This of course, wasn’t why he acted, but rather how he justified it.

As various acts of violence are perpetrated against him, Arthur comes to a tipping point wherein he is no longer sees himself as a victim but a participant. He comes to believe that he will have a place in the ultimate meaning of his world if he can die in a way that gives clarity to his life, and he fantasizes about killing himself in front of an audience… using the same mimery that Sophie gave to him As noted in his joke book/diary, we are drawn to his scribbles that this will make his death mean something.

The culmination of this is in the final talk show scene where Arthur, now Joker, kills his imagined comedian father. This happens after he rereads those thoughts, “I hope my death will make more cents than my life. (written, of course, with carefully placed homonym for added craziness)” There is of course a joke in here, as he comes to realize that his life doesn’t make sense and so neither should his own death. This leaves Arthur with one conclusion. He ought to do what he wants to do. Since he is angry and incensed by Murray Franklin, why not kill him?

Here the transformation becomes complete as Arthur, as the Joker, no longer seeks to make any sense from his life but instead makes another leap from a mere reactionary participant in the violence to a full on perpetrator of the violence. This is the full circle of the Joker movie.

The violent act in the streets of Gotham that started the movie ends with another violent act, which is overlayed by Fleck’s musing that this is the joke. The murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents in crime alley is the direct result of the violence perpetrated against all of Gotham’s citizens. Fans will know that it will also birth the violent vigilante Batman. He too will participate in the violence and shirk the system that seeks to control it.

The man who was a victim of the system, was invited to join it, has now conquered it and is now it’s king… or its joker. And like a joker, Arthur is now a wild card. His destruction of his own reality, realized in the murder of his comedic idol has freed him to create his own reality rather than to have reality created for him.

FALSE

Though it is true that breaking free of a system frees us from that system’s constraints. Arthur Fleck’s world view is the idea that violence is the only system. The narrative painted is only able to paint a construct wherein violence is the only reality by stating that all reality is delusion. But if it is true that all reality is illusion, than violence as a construct cannot be trusted. At the end of the movie, we learn that Arthur is in an asylum (hopefully Arkham) and this makes sense as throughout the movie, it is clear that Arthur is an unstable narrator. He doesn’t understand what is happening in the real world. To this end, neither does the viewer. It is plausible that the entire Joker movie took place in Arthur’s mind. Participation and eventually perpetration of violence didn’t actually free Arthur. All that it did was remove the burden to operate in the real world. One could argue that having a feeling of not belonging and not understanding why is better than having a feeling of belonging and not caring if it’s true. Either way violence only leads to freedom, if freedom is taken to mean a total lack of uncertainty about definitions of life. Perhaps the walls of Arthur’s mind are far enough part to call that freedom, but the four walls of an asylum contain someone who is far from free to be a whole person.

There is no truth

In Joker, there is no reliable truth. Practically everyone is lying to him. This is best exemplified by his Mother’s lie about his origins… namely that he was adopted.

Those who were not lying are delusional at best or hypocrites at worst. The main people to let him down in this way are his mother with her delusion of being Thomas Wayne’s lover, his coworker Randall who sets him up to lose his job, and Murray, who invites him on his show to make fun of him.

Those who are not lying or delusional or hypocrites are apathetic to him. This is seen in his relationship with his state prescribed social worker. He feels strongly that she does not hear him or care about him.

And lastly, and possibly most profoundly, it is notable that Arthur Fleck is trapped in his own mind and regularly lies to himself about the truth of his situations and relationships. Nothing can be trusted.

MOSTLY FALSE

Humans are unstable narrators. Even the best intentioned ones are hypocrites. This is precisely the reason why we need something that is revelatory (from outside our system) to be able to make heads or tails of what is reality.

However, we are not without hope. There is logic and rules of induction that can help us to navigate the world around us and their is experience that we can learn from. Arthur compounded his problem’s by choosing to fantasize and dissassociate rather than face the facts and draw conclusions based on evidence.

So though it is true that you can’t trust anyone in the context of themselves, thankfully, we have many things from which to gain context and glean truths.

It is of course a fallacy to say that there is no truth. This is itself a truth.

We are the victims of our circumstances

Joker is that curious piece of art which tells the abused that they are at fault for their abuse. Arthur’s journey through the film is one of awakening and transcendance to a version of himself where in he never was a victim, he was just merely ignorant of the truth, which is that the only victims are those who wish to remain in a system that can victimize them. He goes one step further to conclude that those people deserve to be victimized.

FALSE

Murray questions Arthur as to whether he is just making excuses. The truth is that he is. He claims the bankers deserved to be murdered, in a system he believes is of a person’s own making. Since the bankers were the bullies and not victims in their own minds, this doesn’t make sense. The truth is that Arthur wanted to murder them.

Arthur was never the victim of his own story despite how he was portrayed. He chose to take the steps he did because he didn’t like how he was being treated. He hid his own visceral reactions to these things and his feelings of guilt about the consequences behind delusions of grandeur in which he was aware of a truth that others were not… namely that his violence is justifiable in a city that is by nature violent.

This ideology is betrayed when he doesnt’ kill his friend Gary. His reasoning is simple. Gary is the only one who never treated him badly. But this reasoning betrays how Arthur truly feels. It should be noted here that Gary is a little person who is constantly made fun of on the basis of his height. That being said, Gary is nice to Arthur. Nonetheless, victims are those of there own making and when they are mistreated, it is because they allow it.

So why does Arthur allow Gary to live? Gary is a victim and victims create the world in which they are victims. Therefore they are deserving of every bad thing that comes to them. According to this worldview, Gary should have deserved to die. But by Arthur’s own words, Gary had never wronged him… ergo… he didn’t deserve to die.

This is the flaw of Arthur’s worldview. Arthur’s victims are not victims of their own circumstances but rather victims of another persons emotional state. Even in the death of Murray the comedian, we can see that Arthur’s decision to kill him was based on deeming him guilty of hypocrisy. This hypocrisy comes from the seat of the rich and famous who are abusers, but not victims.

The truth is that Arthur is not a victim of circumstances but rather a jealous man with a gun who doesn’t merely want for the victimizing to stop, or even to be normal. He wants to be an abuser. He wants the power and the fame. He chooses his victims based upon how they treat him and not how they live their lives. His standard for someone’s deserval of his violence is arbitrary, not based on their merit but instead based on his feeling in that moment.

Joker wants us to believe that he is a victim of his circumstances and that he is a foregone conclusion of his environment. The truth is that we are more than determined. We make choices in time and space about who we are going to be. Arthur Fleck wants us to excuse and even commiserate with his Joker persona as being the only rationale truth but then he betrays that persona by allowing for a reciprocity. This is not a consistent worldview. Arthur is right in that we often play the victim and get what we deserve when doing so, but he is wrong in thinking that this excuses his behavior. Murray was right, Arthur was an abuser because he was tired of being a victim. He could’ve just as easily chose to be an advocate like Gotham’s other famous citizen, or dare I say it…. made light of the situation by being an actually funny guy. We are not determined, we choose.

IMPRESSIONS

All these things said, I generally loved the artistry of the movie. It is rare to see a movie in this day and age, so well made. I found myself genuinely questioning where Joaquin Phoenix stands in the line up of crown princes. My conclusion is that he doesn’t. The truth is that without hope, this is a world where Batman would never evolve. If I was to predict an honest sequel to Joker, it would feature a Batman who lacks any sense of reason to his crusade. That is, unless, the events of Joker are retold from a point of narrative stability. The thing about Joker is that he is a myth, not a person. He is best understood that way. Arthur Fleck is not Joker in the traditional sense, he is a repackaged Narrator transitioning into Tyler Durdin. Joker is the new Fight Club…. sssshhh.

It works as a movie the way that a forest fire works in a fireplace. It is at the same time powerful and beautiful as it is ill advised.

From a Christian perspective, i can see the image of God… but only despite being told that it is not present. If you need to see a technically beautiful movie, I would recommend it. If you want to see a movie that lifts the soul or elevates our hearts to inspiration, I would avoid it. To that end, it is senseless pandering to a small ideology.

For all of it’s pomp and circus, we never really see the Joker. Instead we see Arthur Fleck, a sad and mentally ill man, who lives in a padded room. We are treated to a masterfully crafted story about the loss of his humanity, only to be led to believe that humanity was just a joke to begin with. The joke is on us if we decide to immortalize this journey by climbing into it with him.

HOW I VIEW MEDIA

As a person in the 21st Century, we have more methods of consuming art than ever before. Everywhere we turn is a screen ready to deliver all sorts of useful knowledge to us instantly. The low cost of entry to information allows inputs of every type into our brains, but ironically, we are not a very conscious people of these inputs. With the advent of streaming services such as Netflix and buffet style movie watching such as Movie Pass, long-form storytelling is no longer relegated to the discerning consumer who waits for the next blockbuster as if it were an event but instead is treated as one treats an assembly line object… disposable. Because of this, our attention to the toll it takes on our lives to watch movies and television, both in monetary cost and psycho-emotional cost is now seen as archaic. We have become consumers of the worst kind. We indiscriminately fill our heads at the table of media as our brains become fat and lazy.

BE TRANSFORMED

This is a problem for those who believe in Christianity. In Christ, we understand that we don’t need to be doing a sinful action for our fantasizing of that action to be a sin. In Christ, we understand that we are to think on the things that are lovely and pure. In Christ, we understand that our minds are what need to be renewed for our lives to be transformed.  Every believer has to wrestle with the way in which he allows media to play a part in his sanctification.

IS THIS A SIN ISSUE?

Where the Bible doesn’t speak to it, it’s an area of Christian freedom that is best spoken of in terms of maturity rather than sin. That being said, to love God is to love his correction, his discipline and his personality. We do not need to be sinning to recieve these things. In terms of our maturity, the question that we have to wrestle with is, “Am I loving God with my mind when i call these things entertaining?”

MINDS ON

As Christians our minds ought to be always oriented toward God, especially when our minds are perceiving things which are purposefully meant as distractions from everyday life. There is no greater distraction in this day and age than that of visual media. Our minds must be on.

THINGS I BELIEVE ABOUT ART

Where some might say that it would be better to become ascetic and purge visual media from our lives, I prefer to take the method of direction rather than restriction. I believe our minds should be given wholeheartedly to God through focus. To that end, here are a few things I acknowledge:

  1. Any creative output is a demonstration of the image of God. This doesn’t mean it is a good demonstration. This doesn’t mean that God likes what he sees. It simply means that our ability to create a worshipful song about Satan is never going to fully extinguish the fact of God in that work. Satan is not bigger than God. We cannot remove God no matter how hard we might try. Everything we do stresses that he exists. This confusion and delusion is why it’s so sad when people’s creative works are wicked, gross or demonic in nature.
  2. All creative works are worth exploring to the degree that our consciences are moved to praise God. As stated earlier, a creative work can try to not praise God. It can do this by screaming blasphemies. But even these bear witness to God, simply on the basis of the complexities of the tongue they use to deliver them, the wonders of intellect which they use to deliver them and the unique voice which they use. Without God, they wouldn’t be able to dissent creatively or otherwise. Therefore, we can praise God when we see these creative works because what man intends for evil, God intends for Good. However, if in the storm, which God made, we begin to sink… it is because our focus is shifted off of him. At this point, it becomes dangerous and sometimes not even worth the cost of entry to our faith. There are certain works which have defined this high cost of praise for various generations. You can find God in films like A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for A Dream and the Exorcist, but is it a good use of your time? In most cases, I would argue no. Let me be also clear that the acknowledgment that God’s power shines through all darkness is not a good reason to treasure such a work. These works, though still having value, should be treated as sad works that demonstrate how deeply deranged a person must be to tell the story to others. Works that we should treasure are works that freely bring us to praise of our God, not the ones that do everything in their power to remove that praise, but fail.
  3. We should be well versed in media of all kinds. When people spout movie quotes as if they’re scripture, it’s time to know what the social narrative is. Jude, Paul and Jesus himself quoted the works of the day to better illustrate God’s glory and right teaching. We should be able to do the same. Though a social narrative is not Holy, it should be seen as sacred. Respecting these stories, but lowering them to their proper value under God will help to demonstrate for people how to allow their lives (all parts of it) to be renewed by God. 
  4. Works by Christians should not be viewed the same as works by non-Christians. We operate with different premises. Of course, a non-christian movie has liberal views on sexuality, relationships, and nihilism, syncretism, pantheism or other at its core. What would you expect? We can’t expect a non-Christian to preach Christianity. Christianity, though ultimately logical, defies the world’s sin-stained reasoning. We expect to have to find the value for believers. We expect that it won’t be in the areas of Christian Faith, Hope, and Love.

HOW I REVIEW

  1. I review the mainstream. I don’t generally waste my time on Pureflix type produced titles… and if I do… I will be much harsher critics because they claim to be producing a Christ-centered form of entertainment. This is because a wolf in the wild may be majestic, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing needs to be put down.
  2. I review the themes of a media. What is the media trying to tell me about my worldview? It is amazing how many Christians have a worldview based on everything from the Matrix to the Wizard of Oz, but not the Bible.
  3. I review the consistency of those themes. Are those things consistent in the worldview of the movie or do they have to borrow from Christianity to make sense in everyday life?
  4. I make challenges based on the themes of the media. Does this apply to your life? What should we do with what we just allowed to be inputted into our brains?
  5. I compare and contrast the themes with those we should be holding from Scripture. This is not to say that we hold media by non-Christians to the same standards, but instead, we recognize that this media is always vying for a spot on the shelf of our hearts and minds. It’s important that we consistently remind ourselves of the difference between the sacred and the holy.

LETS WATCH STUFF TOGETHER

My hope is to generate discussion about these forms of input. My desire is simple. I hope to grow our filters for true praise and bring our minds wholeheartedly to God.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

DISCLAIMER

Bohemian Rhapsody is based on a true story, but there are many details which are not accurate. To that end, I have chosen to write on the movie as if its presentations are true. The points below are written as if the movie is accurate.

I am a Queen fan. I’m not sure that I’ve ever met a self-respecting musician who is not. Queen is, in my opinion, the epitome of how the creative process can bring glory to God and be actively ignorant and sometimes defiant of him. In their music, the complex harmonies and intentful conforming of chaotic sound into a single masterpiece is something that only one made in the image of God can do. This, of course, means that their music is often the saddest from a Christian perspective and that Freddie Mercury’s story is ultimately a tragedy to us as believers.

This is, of course, the opposite of how the story is painted. By bookending the film with the recreation of arguably the best live performance in the history of concerts… the LiveAid Queen segment… we are led to believe that this moment is a worthwhile anchor with which to tell the story of how the band came to be Queen.

IMPRESSIONS

I genuinely enjoyed the film. The acting, led by Rami Malek, left the audience appropriately enthralled at the rise, fall, and rise of Queen. Incidentally, the casting was also superb.


SPOILER ALERT


THEMES

BoRap, as the song is eponymously referred to, does a decent job of trying to paint to clear a picture on any one theme. This is perhaps a good move for the director, given the extremity with which Freddie Mercury was said to have lived. That said, there are a few things I gathered in my viewing.

  1. Identity is not in family or religion but in self. This is displayed in everything from Freddie’s contrarian attitude to such mundane things as how to hold a microphone, what lyrics to sing, to even giving himself a new name. This is carried into the career of the band as they did things like experimenting with sound, abandoning touring for production and writing rock based on opera rather than popular trends.
    False.

    This idea runs contrary to what the Bible teaches in general. The family is meant to teach us about God, wherein we are supposed to find our true identity. This is not to say that experimentation in artistry is wrong, but this path should be one of bolstering and building up identity rather than tearing down the one we come to the table with.
  2. Identity cannot be altered in any way and must be sensationalized to be accurate. This is best illustrated during a pivotal scene in which his wife reacts to Freddie’s admission that he is bisexual. The context of this scene is that of desperation on his part to keep the relationship intact despite his appetites. He was not seeking to break up with her. In fact, he demands that she keep their wedding ring on. Nonetheless, he is unsuccessful at keeping the marriage going, instead pivoting the relationship into a full-blown homosexual lifestyle. This is the result of that one coming-out conversation wherein his wife’s response to him was not one of strengthening their failing relationship but instead of directing him into his appetites by telling him, “no, Freddie! you are gay.” Even after this, he continues to met with failed attempts to strengthen the relationship, culminating in his wife eventually getting married and having children with another man.
    Mostly False.

    This is true only when the context of our identity comes from God. There is a deep sadness in this movie as Freddie continues to beg attention and relationship from his wife. This “inclination” is ultimately presented as a negative thing to overcome and his acceptance of his homosexual lifestyle and her new marriage is presented as part of his healthy new mindset. Yet, a large portion of the debauchery and depression in Freddie’s life seems to have come, not from closeting his lusts, but rather from people repeatedly rathering to give him over to these lusts than to meet him head on and give him direction and sound advice. It is in the height of this state, high and drunk that a single expression of her love pulls him out of his depression. Truthfully, he had been begging her to do this for many years. But instead, he was left to develop Freddie Mercury while Farrokh Bulsara was ultimately lost.
  3. Family is those who understand your identity. Queen is family. From the beginning of the movie, Freddie’s father is depicted as unnecessarily over-bearing. This seems to be a cause of Freddie seeking to find his family elsewhere. He finds this in three main ways. The first is in the band. The second is in the music itself and the last is in the fandom. However, in every front, Freddie becomes frustrated that his true self is not being understood or respected.Mostly False.
    Family is repeatedly accosted to refer to the band. This definition expands as necessary. However, every definition ultimately fails Freddie. When he defined it as the band, the band easily broke up over simple confusions and lack of patience. When he defined it as the music, he ultimately became bored and sought to make his own music. When he defined it as the fandom, he became frustrated at the lack of ability for the fans to not relegate him to a cross-dressing homosexual poster boy. Even, the family that he wanted to have with his wife ended up letting him down, while at the same time claiming that it was so he could be truly free. Biblically, family is found in our mutual faith, wherein we lose distinctions such as gender, race and so on for the glory of adoption and oneness as Christ’s body.
  4. Everyone deserves a second chance. Freddie is a screw-up. He is a genius first, but after the genius comes a lot of grace. As Freddie continues to gain notoriety, he becomes less and less self-aware. This apex’s in a moment of lust where he tries to take advantage of a waiter at one of his parties. Jim, the waiter, shuns his advances, for the most part, and demands to be treated as a person. This moment hangs in Freddie’s mind until he finds his own self-respect and ultimately is able to reapproach the waiter with an interaction that, presumably creates a respectful relationship. The encounter with Jim created the impasse needed for Freddie to admit that he needed more of the band and less of himself.Mostly True.
    The concept of grace is a distinctly Christian concept. That said, its beautiful to see it played out in stories such as this. Unfortunately, and expectedly, it is a wholly inconsistent application. What could have been a true understanding of grace and redemption is instead a succumbing to social contract theory. Freddie realizes that he is worse without Queen and vice versa. This is called second chances, but in reality, Freddie has no such realization. There is no thought of reconciliation to those who had wronged Freddie… and there were many. Instead, these people are simply cut out for Freddie’s health. This surgery is painted as powerful liberation, but it is acutely one-sided and self-serving. Even Freddie’s reconciliation with his family is not a true reconciliation. It consists of a fairly open unveiling of who Freddie is as a homosexual but had his parents reacted worse, the likelihood would be that the family would’ve been cut off as well. This is not grace. It is merely social contract theory at the bottom of a barrel.

Bohemian Rhapsody is a fun movie. Its music is iconic. Its performances are captivating. But when our minds are honest about its ultimate emptiness, the movie should lead us to reflect on the sadness that one man could be so talented and so misunderstood and so in need of Christ.

THE HATE U GIVE

SYNOPSIS

The Hate U Give is a movie about a young girl named Starr who lives between two worlds. The first world is in the afro-centric Garden Heights where she lives with her family. Here she participates in a stereotypical, media portrayed “black experience.” In this life, she has witnessed many things at a young age, including drugs, general thugery, sexual promiscuity and ultimately the death of one of her best friends. Though her parents disagree about the need to ultimately stay in this environment when she is an adult, they decide to try to spare her anymore heartache and to give her a “leg up” in life. They do this by sending her to a “white school,” where she, by virtue of being black, is by default, cool. At Williamson Prep, Starr has a different persona whose seemingly entire existence, is secretly built around distancing herself from the truths of her Garden Heights life.

The movie begins when Starr is witness to, yet another friend being unjustifiably killed, this time by a police officer in Garden Heights. Starr’s secret life in Garden Heights becomes a subject of national attention and her two communities wrestle for her to have the courage to own one community or the other in the wake of it all. Caught between two worlds, the film focuses on the divide between Starr’s two worlds collapsing into each other, Starr’s inability to cope with the overflow, and each world’s mounting pressure to gain meaning and control in the senseless death.


SPOILER ALERT


THEMES

  1. Intersectionality must create dual identitiesFrom the first voiceover in the movie, we are told to assume that Starr’s dilemma of dual identities is the only reasonable personhood she can have and that people who don’t understand that are people who are too privileged to know better. This is best seen in her emotionally distant relationship with her white boyfriend. He is naively color blind to her, which she views as inappropriate because she is by default colored. Though there is no resolution, beyond their willingness to accept that he just doesn’t understand her, the movie is inconsistent in its treatment of this as Starr views her father’s suspicion of her white boyfriend to be inappropriate.MOSTLY FALSE.
    Though different aspects of a person’s life create different vantage points and therefore a diversity of worldviews, these do not have to remain at odds with each other. These can be married to synthesize a holistic understanding of self if there can be communication between the parts. Beyond this, the biblical model is to celebrate the differences as distinct parts of a single whole. Therefore the identity isn’t in the part but rather the whole. If Starr’s boyfriend cannot relate to her as a whole, it is because, on a systematic level, Starr chooses to keep herself a fractured person. This will be covered a little more in depth, below, when we talk less about identity and more about communication.
  2. Language is the most powerful tool one can useThe title of the movie is the key to understanding the overall narrative of the film. The Hate U Give can be shortened to T.H.U.G., itself a shorter version of a Tupac lyric: The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everbody. This can be shortened to T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E., a satirical inversion of the Concept of “Thug Life,” a prevalent worldview in Garden Heights which is a savage form of social contract theory. Tupac’s lyric is introduced by her friend, Khalil, as a way to show that he viewed the system of oppression in Thug Life Mentality and Garden Heights as something that is both systematic and in need of leaving. Himself being caught in the Thug Life Mentality, he was determined to switch his thinking to the T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. thought process and escape the systematic oppression of Garden Heights. Immediately after introducing her to this new way of thinking, he was promptly killed, leaving the Tupac’s lyric a prominent bitter truth in her life.Tupac was calling people to speak differently and not perpetuate hate in the ghettos.The rest of the movie is spent with Starr wrestling with the passive call to action in the T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. ideology. She doesn’t know how to give her relationship with Khalil proper consideration as her two worlds fight to control her voice. Throughout the movie, she wrestles with what to say, what not to say and when to keep quiet. Throughout the many examples in the film of a systematic negative effect of language use in the film, none is more jarring than that of her elementary aged brother grabbing a gun and threatening to shoot the local drug dealer. It is here that we see the effect of T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. ideology played out. After calling all to stop perpetuating the violence with their words, every part sets down their weapons and peace is maintained.TRUE.
    The scripture calls us to control our tongue and to have our hearts be changed to those that love each other tenderheartedly. It does matter what you say. It does have a noticeable effect on the culture of the next generation.
  3. Success is defined by opportunity
    The world of Garden Heights is built on a lack of opportunity. It is this realization and the vocalization of it that serves to get Starr in trouble with the local drug dealers, the King Lords. Admitting the King Lord’s control of the city to a grand jury, in trying to excuse Khalil’s drug-dealing ways as an inescapable fact of ghetto life is a defining moment of the movie. It shows the nihilistic tendency of the culture and why Starr and others feel so trapped. The ideology is that because there is no opportunity in the ghetto that isn’t corrupt, all people are destined to a life of relative corruption. Khalil had to be a drug dealer. Any questioning of that truth is seen as not truly understanding, or even respecting the culture. In some cases in the movie, this was even expressed as racism.MOSTLY FALSE.
    Though our relative situations create something to rise above, the Scripture is very clear that our ability to rise above them doesn’t represent our success. Success is defined by how well we do two things: Our follow through of loving God wholeheartedly and man tenderheartedly. None of these things depends on any connection to station, gender, race or any other thing. By a biblical standard, Khalil would have been successful by simply denying the King Lord’s control in his life, and living, not by Tupac’s T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. mentality, but by Christ’s two commands. This may have led to ultimate poverty or even death and still within his original situation, but he would’ve been viewed as successful before God. The biblical truth is that Khalil sold drugs because he didn’t trust God to take care of him and he wanted a different life than the one he was given.The truth of this is mirrored in the movie by Starr’s two Father figures. The first is by her biological father who learned the hard way that he had to leave the Thug Life. And her uncle who chose to join the police instead of the Thug Life. If it is true that Khalil had to participate in Thug Life to advance beyond the trappings of Garden heights, then the movie isn’t very consistent in giving these two male authority figures the choices they made. Even in the world of The Hate U Give, a choice is always an option. Beyond this, the Bible supports the idea that in Christ, we are now firstly a part of his Church. This is to be the culture that transcends all other cultures. This is what we rely on to move past where we started from.
  4. Privilege makes it impossible to communicate between different social statusesThroughout the movie, Starr wrestles with communicating her inner turmoil to those who don’t have the same cultural understanding as her. Even when she is true to herself and eventually speaks out, there is an ideology that understanding can only truly be achieved by giving in to the idea that her white friends cannot relate to her in a meaningful way. As the movie ends, it is seen that her best friend at the beginning of the movie is now no longer viewed as her friend. There are only a few points in the movie that drive a wedge between their relationship and in these times it is because her friend chose to ask for clarity on presuppositions that Starr held about intersectional differences or because she believed that there were two sides to the police shooting. In a moment of climax for the movie, Starr’s white friend questions her on why it isn’t possible that the police officer could have made a simple, though fatal, mistake about the hairbrush in his hand being a gun. Starr’s response is to use her friend’s hairbrush to illustrate that her friend is a racist. She does this by attacking her with that hairbrush and menacing her with it by shouting commands at her and hitting it with her. As her friend crumbles into a fetal position, Starr walks away feeling justified in proving the point that her friend sees her as a threat on the basis of her skin tone. The audience is left with the sense that any black person holding a hairbrush is, by default, a black person holding a weapon because every black person is dangerous and white people are by nature suspicious of them. This, therefore, nullifies, in Starr’s mind, any idea that policeman could be justified in shooting Khalil because there is no possible justified homicide when someone is racist.FALSE.
    This is tacitly false. Whether someone is racist doesn’t change the fact that they could be justified in committing homicide. Beyond this, racism is not the most reasonable conclusion to come to. This point is illustrated in a conversation that Starr has with her Policeman uncle. He sheds light on how difficult it can be to know what is a weapon when you are on the job. However, he does admit, when pushed by Starr, that he would not shoot first with a white person. This seems to be meant to illustrate that the systemic racism had infiltrated Starr’s uncle’s way of thinking. However, causation and correlation are different things. it doesn’t address the sheer statistics and data that imply that the behavior to shoot first with a black man is more reasonable than with white. Starr’s uncle has to make quick decisions based on general sets of data. It is both natural and prudent to generalize and act. It does not logically follow that racism is the deciding factor, even if race is a factor in the decision-making process.Furthermore, this racial profiling is exactly what Starr is doing to her white friend in assuming that she is a racist privileged white person, based solely on her level of intersectionality. Starr’s tantrum toward her friend did nothing to prove her point that her friend is racist. This point is simply unproven by that interaction. The fact that Starr’s friend collapsed into a fetal position was because Starr literally assaulted her with a hairbrush. Therefore, based on the evidence, Starr’s friend should view her as emotionally unstable at that moment and be scared of her. This is not because she is a black person holding a potential weapon. But because she is an unstable person using a hairbrush as a literal weapon.Beyond this, the idea that differences need to create a disparity in our high view of another person’s value is false. Christianity teaches that in Christ there is no gender, race or any other distinguisher’s in terms of ones value, or appropriate minimum level of treatment. Historically, this has been why many social services and missions of mercy can be traced back to Christianity. It is the Christian worldview which denies the view that minorities are innately different. When we allow our worldview to contain the idea that suspicion and privilege are foregone realities we must live with, we are denying the high biblical view of personhood.

IMPRESSIONS

The Hate U Give is a thought inducing two hours of dynamic content. It is well acted and well cast, though ultimately fails to provide any real solution or true hope to the problem presented in its title.

YEAR ONE

Have you ever seen the downfall of civilization as you know it? I’m pretty sure I just did. Or perhaps at least a benchmark/watershed moment as another one of society’s young stars makes a movie about crap. When I say about crap, that would first have to imply that the movie was about something in general… which it most certainly wasn’t. It was a movie about nothing with little more than a poorly written script to tie scenes together.

Why you might ask would I call this cinematic masterpiece the downfall of society? The answer is simply that within it is the degredation of the boundaries between fact and fiction. The two cavemen somehow manage to end up meeting Adam and Abraham at the same time, which for those of you who don’t know your history lived many centuries apart, and wound up in a cecil b. demille influenced version of sodom which had little to nothing to do with sodomy but more to do with human sacrifice and a temple which steals its name from the jewish Holy of Holies… the anti-thesis of the sodomites’ worship center I might add. But with glaring historical innacuracies aside, the most disturbing aspect of the film has to be that the innacuracies are not couched with tongue in cheek, but instead are taken as post modern puzzle pieces given liberally to the screen writer for his amusement.

The sarcasm and satire that has come to be associated with some of the best comedies is nowhere to be seen, but instead has been replaced with a theatre of the absurd which doesn’t paint itself at all as absurdity but instead takes an anything goes approach to the art of crafting a story. This film takes the name Year One as an all encompassing term for multiple concepts of ancient history and seeks to free itself from within the niche genre of story telling that it belongs in. The distance that the marketing of this film seeks to place between itself as a legitimate comedy set in ancient times versus a spoof of ancient times is scary because it asks the mindless viewer to do the same with history and art.

This movie was definately funny, with the help of the comedic performances by Michael Cera and Jack Black who have a definate chemistry on screen seems familiar and plausible. However, the film was not art and it was not story telling. It was the equivalent of listening to a 2 year old tell the story of how a zebra got its stripes, funny and cute… but a movie doesn’t need to be made about it. Waste.

A SHAMELESS PLUG FOR JOSS WHEDON

TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2009

In every generation there are defining methods of storytelling which encompass the whole human experience. Some are episodic and show the event based nature of life, with each moment having their own designs, follies, and triumphs… generally accompanied by a laugh track. Others however dare to push the envelope of the audience to grasp the subtle nuances of storytelling, to engage the mind longer than the advent of the story on the screen, on paper, or in words. Joss Whedon is this generations most prolific story peddler and his most famous story is affectionately reffered to by fans as the Buffyverse. Why you might ask do i call it the Buffyverse rather than simply Buffy the vampire slayer? Because the story transcends the walls of one 45 minute teenage drama, but instead extends into a fluid media consciousness which includes the redefining Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show, but also Angel, its counterpart, and seasons of Angel and Buffy which continue contingently upon the pages of books and comicbook pages to create an extensive networked experience. The Buffyverse has fans which celebrate with Star Trekesqe vigor coming to fan conventions dressed and acting as if they exist in the Buffyverse proper. Yet at the same time, the show grabs the decidedly macabre underbelly of fandom with regular screenings of Buffy season 6’s musical “once more with feeling,” complete with gags to interact with the screen and guests as if Tim Curry himself had made an appearance in the episode. But perhaps the most endearing effect that the Buffyverse has had on the history of story telling is the endearing wordplay and pseudo philosophical jargon littered throughout the current landscape of Judd Apatow wannabees in hollywood. The frat boys seem unaware that their propensity to spout the ramblings of 80’s screen writers as allusions to complex neoplatonist thought was perfected for this generation by the same man who brought us Toy Story in the mid 90’s and Roseanne in the late 80’s. The rapid fire all encompassing and unapologetic dialogue of today would not exist with out the stamp of Joss Whedon upon the history of story telling. His ability to blend rhythm with rhyme created a standard, proven in the Buffyverse and being shown again in later works like Serenity and Dollhouse, that extend beyond the star, or the story. If you want to learn something about humanity, free up your time to watch the entire twelve seasons on DVD. The experience is seminal to understanding good storytelling in a world of copycats and hacks. Represent.

TRANSFORMERS 2

WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2009

Robots in disguise? Where is this familiar auto tuned statement within the soundtrack for Transformers? I mean seriously… you would think Lil’ Wayne, or even Cher would’ve taken time from their auto tuned ways to brave the familiar slogan of the iconic cartoon… How about at least, “More than meets the eye?” For shame. Transformers 2 was epic. When I watch movies, it’s generally late at night after the last show of a theatre has let out and movies that boast an over 2 hour limit are often times approached with a sense of trepidation and a caffeinated drink. With that said, Michael Bay managed to keep my attention time and again throughout his rediculous romp through the world of mechanical masqueraders. Now the question and consistent gripe of the critic seems to be the level of boom in comparison to the lack of reason for the boom. In essence, the film supposedly has little to no cohesion of plot and seems to suffer from the big budget curse of creating a pyromaniacs wetdream, making it the equivalent of a porno quality script.

Now I like a good story as much as the next person, and Transformers 2 is certainly not the Dark Knight with its rediculously encompassing treatment of the human experience through the eyes of polar absolutes locked in a gothic janusesque battle for the condition of increasingly complex micro and macrocosms of existence ranging from the cosmic battle of good and evil, to the struggle of a man and his alter ego. And I’m certainly aware that it is easy to view Transformers in the light of Spielbergs personal glory and downfall with the lense of boom… especially as Shia has grafted himself into the legacy of Harrison Ford… However, This movie is not those stories nor does it try to be. At the base of the story is something so rediculous a premise that it should never be compared to, for instance, Spiderman 3, where the story is preposterous and nothing but boom booms… where the source material is incredibly deep and philosophical for Stan Lee’s webslinging smart ass, movies like Spiderman 3 become worthy of deep and intense criticism for the way they degrade the integrity of their own values… oh Sam Raimi how you have grieved me 😦 … Transformers 2 however is not such a creature, it has risen above.

I think the critics need to remember that Transformers is an action movie and owns it proudly because first and foremost, it is not based on a literary work of epic proportions. Transformers is based on a line of toys made to entertain little boys who don’t want to play with Barbie. With that said, Transformers seems to have grown quite a bit from its origins… even to the point of fooling critics into thinking that at its roots it was written by Shakespeare or perhaps by Joss Whedon… but it was not… at its roots it was written by an add exec for Hasbro and from these humble roots, Orci, Kurtzman and Bay gave us a gift of a decently mature experience.

As a fan of the original Transformers cartoon show and the toys, and Orci Kurtzman and Bay… I for one am pleased with the transformation from toy to movie. And i don’t particularly understand why it is that critics don’t get that the Transformers movies are not meant to be deep philosophical musings on the human existence… they are supposed to be fun and go boom. At their root, they are still the proverbial plastic toy that lit up the eyes of little boys everywhere… only translated to a movie experience. Those critics who whine about Transformers 2 not having enough story and too much boom are forgetting the most important part of being a critic… its called education. You can’t speak to something intelligently unless you understand its context. Transformers 2 in the context of itself, meaning the history of the franchise, is fantastic. Transformers 2 in the context of moviedom is along the lines of Spielberg, Bruckheimer and Bay, a fact which i remind us is pretty awesome in its own right… these movies occasionally carry alot of story, but mostly they are a little story with alot of boom. Those critics who try to make it something that it is not are self righteous idiots, lost in their own swelling words and I am not fooled. Critics… waste. Movie… represent.

ICE AGE 3

SATURDAY, JULY 4, 2009

The Lost World (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, not Michael Crichton) meets Land of the Lost (Will Ferrel not Spencer Mulligan) meets Captain Jack Sparrow in weasel form played with expertise by the new Enterprise’s Scotty, Simon Pegg. This movie was funny, funny once you switch off the part of your brain that thinks. This seems appropriate a move considering that it is a children’s movie and thus seems to fit into the library of mind numbing babysitting libraries with huluesque visceral side effects in adult hood. However, in an ironic and dissapointing twist I have to say that this fact in particular is my personal gripe with the whole experience. I like fast paced things and i like things that go boom, and i like funny voices and all, but I’m tired of being told by cartoons that in order to have the animated experience for my kids, I must put my child into a tense position where they are left waiting for the next bump, boom, joke, or twist.

Cartoons are a sacred depiction of the human form through the human form. An artist takes humanity and translates it into something distorted to depict and emphasize parts of us that would otherwise not be noticed. Some animators use this medium to connect the audience with a world that could not otherwise be explored in any sort of realistic fashion… the world of action and adventure can be created when in real life, any drama of that nature would surely cause years of expensive therapy bills and some sort of dependency on pain killers. This medium is a perfect way to involve children in more mature themes and ideas that can help them to better understand certain truths of humanity in ways that will not compromise their innocence. The best example of this for my money is the episode “on leather batwings” from the early ninetees Bruce Timm masterpiece Batman the Animated Series.

The level of depth and humanity found within this innaugural episode of simple cartoon show was evidence of what cartoons can do with material that could even be considered horrific in some circles. Back to Ice Age 3. The question that I ask myself is “why?” Why make a cartoon for children with no real value to it. Sure you can pull out Syd the sloth’s character as a teacher of storgic love… but even that was a matter of stupidity and absurd tenacity on his part rather than a human emotion being taught to youngsters looking for life examples spoon fed to them in the form of palatable computer generated icons. As I watched the movie, i found myself entertained, but I wonder why I should care about the experience that I’m going through. I could just as easily have not watched the movie and been fine with it. That mentality is echoed and perhaps foreshadowed in the films event based plot line which is ripe with tiny episodic trauma after trauma, but with no real connection of morale, life lesson, or human truth to pass on. There’s a huge contrast between a movie like this, and Disney Pixar’s Up which manages to couch an incredibly mature concept like death into terms that even the youngest child can enjoy while at the same time gaining advice on things to come. For my money, I would rather my child be engaged by cinema that tries to do justice to what their minds are capable of, rather than helping to dull their minds as yet another glorified ten dollar babysitter for two hours. The movie was funny and I especially enjoyed Simon Pegg… but waste.

ORPHAN

Isabelle Furhman is truly inspiring in the way she coyly captures the hopes and the fears of a struggling family in Orphan. The dark mood of the film, is reminiscent of the style of Verbinski, who’s lesser known works centered around the tale of dark haired little girl named Samara, rather than Jack Sparrow. The film managed to carve a brutal place in the heart of the viewer as we watch for the spirit of Macaulay Culkin and his traffic disturbing ways. Indeed, what could’ve been a cheap thriller with a terrible premise and unlikeable characters turned into a movie with charm and emotional investment. Every scene, prop and idea was mulled over to a perfection as we watch the transformation of the Orphan, Esther, into the villainess Nina. The films plot twist, although largely predictable and well forshadowed is played off superbly by the subtle performance of Furhman, who at 11, manages to create an onscreen transformation from little girl to viscious psychopath that is perhaps one of the creepiest displays of a monster the screen has ever known. Furhman’s performance harkens back to that of Hopkins behind the glass wall in Silence of the Lambs, and certainly the Asylum’s resident expert on the girl seemed to have a similar trepidation. The film was moody, casting an unlikeable characters( with the exception of the little sister) within actors who managed to bring an unusually human quality to a slasher film. This movie is a work of art in a media that is often debased. Aside from the implausible character of the child psychiatrist who apparently went to the the same school as Dr. Phil, this movie has all the marks of a cult classic: definitive characters, a rich mythology to build the story within, a stylized tonality, and stars who give the film such a strong performance that the very mention of the film evokes their faces. I’m impressed with the emotional wrought of Furmiga, and chilled to think what Isabelle Furhman might accomplish in future films. Though the decidely adult content mixed with young actors is difficult to swallow, I have to say that this film is worth something in art. Hopefully what it’s worth doesn’t manage to pull a Linda Blair and compromise the emotional future for them. Even so, represent.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF BLOOD PRINCE

FRIDAY, JULY 31, 2009

Every now and then, a movie comes into a legacy of film which redefines the way that series is looked at for a generation to come. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is sadly one of those movies. I use the expression sadly because of what the movie evoked from me and those around me… which was many yawns, and a feeling of buyer’s remorse. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was without a doubt a terrible waste of time. My 13 year old surrogate daughter assures me that the book is vastly different from the movie, and my response is curtly, “it better damn well be.” When you watch a Potter film, you come expecting a certain array of fantastically lush environments and special effects. Pictures on the wall interact with passersby, elaborate new sets and tricks show off the decidedly exclusive world of Hogwarts and distinct characters make you feel as if your watching Harry Potter’s stay at the fantastically branded Walt Disney Land Resort, where everywhere you look you see familiar faces and locales and ideas are familiar through and through. However, The Half Blood Prince was more akin to a visit to your locale Walt Disney Store at the mall, than Disney Land. We find familiar faces sprinkled throughout the movie, but aside from The Head Master, they have few lines if any. This is a true shame, given that the interaction between minor and major characters has always driven the realism of the mythology of Hogwart’s and given a sense of focus to the life of Harry. Characters which have come to be beloved, such as the ground’s keeper, Hagrid, were a seeming afterthought in the editing room. Relationships that had carried weight in previous episodes of Potter’s stay at the school of Majicks were pushed to the side for underdeveloped pubescent musing’s on love and relationships. I dare say that the heroes quest which has come to be associated as much with Harry Potter as it is with Link and the princess Zelda is merely a side quest in a side quest, with little to no journey, peril, or gain involved in the process. The title is misleading, stringing us along with a red hearing that points to the Half Blood Prince, as if he is an integral part of the story line… and perhaps in the book he is, but in the movie, we find the moment of revelation of the identity of the so called ominous sounding Half Blood Prince to be a one liner, free floating, contextual negated statement, of…. by the way…I’m the Half Blood Prince. With this revelation comes a decided moment of confusion, and betrayal as you realize a stark point which I emphatically stated aloud in the half empty theatre…. “who the fuck cares?”

The movie is a failure. The story takes brilliant, veteran actors and relegates them to the position of animatronic robots who’s only job is to look like the characters that we have come to know and love and feign a sense of life like movement and voice that is more creepy than charming. The writer of the screenplay was apparently working out his own relationship issues while writing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, because the part about the Half Blood Prince… yeah… that’s just basically non-existent, and the one other plot development… sad to say that although it involved a death of a major character… I find myself asking why I should care? Instead I find myself watching an episode of Gilmore Girls… a poorly written one at that. The movie was a piece of junk wrapped in the packaging of something you know and love… like the Batman toys you get at your local Big Lots. It may say Harry Potter, but really its just some half assed imitation, and I for one am not fooled or impressed. Waste.