Wonder Woman’s Weakness

wwposterrdcd_579260f4b9aba4-81209460By now, there have been so many thoughtful and decent reviews of Wonder Woman that I don’t have to repeat them but just cite them for you. Whatever I have to say, they already have said it better. Here are the points that shine in this film:

SPOILER ALERT

——1. The film models a healthier and truer feminism, one that Susan B. Anthony and her fellow suffragettes would be somewhat approving of, considering how wayward feminism has become (seeing all men as the enemy, but also seeing men as the standard, is not helpful, much less realistic). Here, let me quote from this Verily Magazine article:

Yet the film’s most compelling moments are when Diana and Steve’s characters are complementing each other. When struck with the painful sight of war, she is unafraid to show her emotions. And when confronted with a baby for the first time in London, she becomes excited. It is in such moments that Diana’s strength has an authentically feminine quality, emphasized more clearly by her contrast with Steve. When she is passionate, Steve is practical. When she is emotional, Steve is rational. But all these qualities are necessary to the success of their mission.

——2. The mythology of Zeus and Ares awfully reminded me of the Fall of Lucifer, to the point I think that this is not original to genuine Greek mythology, but is a Hollywood revision (using Christianity) to help make Diana’s origin story more compelling, and why not? After all, the Christian belief of the creation and fall of the angels from Heaven is super powerful and meaningful, and true. (And BTW: real “gods” don’t die.) Supporting this hunch is the movie reviewing Dcn. Greydanus:

Diana believes that mankind is basically good, reflecting the good deity in whose image we were created, though we have been led down the wrong path by a malign spiritual influence. The catch is that the good deity in question is Zeus, whom we are told brought Diana to life from clay. Also, the malign spiritual influence is Zeus’ son Ares, the Greek god of war, albeit a version of Ares more like Lucifer than anything in Greek mythology.houston-sharp-12-asc-ww-zva-final-newares

——3. And now for the negative, the weakness of Wonder Woman that I am so sad happened. In fact, while I was watching the scene, I had hoped so much that Steve would be the dignified gentleman I had reckoned him to be, but instead of escorting Diana to her bedroom, and then leaving her to her privacy, he spends the night with her in a way only her husband should be privileged to spend. To me, this was very sad considering how much virtue Diana had been inspiring in the men around her. The film would have been so much the better for this scene to have been otherwise, instead of following the lame and usual Hollywood formula of fornication/adultery. Imagine with me:

Steve walks Diana to her quarters for the night, and they share a gaze as he backs toward the door. She doesn’t want him to leave, nor does he want to leave either, but he knows that leaving would be the best way to respect and honor her. She knows this too, and knows that despite how attracted they are to each other, for him to have the will power, the self-control, and the love to treat her better, would be an incredible sign of how much he values her. This would have made their love grow even more.

Love grows when it is protected by chastity. For Steve to have honored Diana’s chastity (and his, too) would have showed true love for her in a way that fornicating with her could never. This was such a weakness that could have been so much stronger for the film. This was a missed opportunity for the film to become something even more special. And we need special in this broken-and-fake-love culture of ours.

wonder-woman-pic-1496431079Even worse: we see only later that Steve finally says that he loves Diana when he is about to sabotage the poison plane. So let’s get this straight: they share a night in bed, and only much later does Steve express his love to Diana? First they have sex, and then comes love? How backward is that? Shouldn’t love come first? This reminded me of how backward things are in another typical and lame Hollywood fornication story: the Age of Adaline:

Unfortunately however, the emphasis on marriage’s demands for fidelity is conflicted with Adaline and Ellis sleeping together. What is really jarring though is when Ellis tells Adaline that he is falling in love with her… but only after they had been sleeping together for a few weeks. Now doesn’t this seem strange? That they had been sharing their nights together before there was love in the relationship? Did Ellis not love Adaline all that time prior? It sure seems that way in the film’s dialogue. So then what… love comes after sex? Doesn’t that seem backward? Shouldn’t love come first? Before anything? Before everything? Sex is meaningless without love, and for Ellis to bring up love this late in the timeline is lame to me. First, you meet her, get to know her, then love her, commit to her, vow to her before witnesses that you’ll be hers, be married to her, and only then give your body and soul to her, all the while choosing to love again and again. That’s the order. Going backward, or hopping around is just weird when the rest of the film encourages faithfulness and seriousness in marriage. This was one messed up moment in an otherwise decent film.

There was more mutual love and respect when they rested chastely on the boat, sailing to England, but alas… Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine, and Gal Gadot missed this chance to shine up Wonder Woman even more. To see more about this epic failure, please see this Verily article, from a young woman’s perspective and hard learned lesson.

——4. That all being said, I did enjoy this film and wouldn’t recommend you pass it up if you have the time to see it. Since the Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan, DC Comics has been in the dumps with their films, but Wonder Woman shows that a come-back is possible!

——Bonus: Did you know Gal Gadot is a happy and proud mother who filmed the movie while she was 5 months with child? Read more here!

Closing Thoughts on Korra

The Legend of Korra has ended, and what a series of surprises! I have to say my favorite Books of Korra have to be One and Three. Amon was such a tragic and complex villain, and the peril inflicted on Korra by Amon and the Red Lotus really tested our heroine’s character.

—–1) But let’s take a closer look at Book Four‘s episode 8: Remembrances. This episode was more like a recap to prepare us for the finale stretch, but this was no filler episode. Some intense insight was to be seen:

KorraMakoWhen Mako and Prince Wu are sharing their stories with each other, Mako shares with us what he learned from his time with Korra, and then with Asami. The takeaway here is that when we date, we should be able to breakup without turning our girlfriend/boyfriend into an enemy. If the two do become enemies, then what was the relationship worth in the first place? Obviously then both were too immature and irresponsible with one another’s hearts. Now, this doesn’t mean the two cannot argue. Arguing is actually a healthy thing if the argument is over something extremely important! But it’s vital not to tear each other down in the argument, but to work together and find out the truth. Arguing should strengthen your relationship, not bomb it into oblivion.

But here’s the gem from Mako’s experience, when he says: “I had to figure out who I was without a lady in my life.” This is exactly why it’s so important for boys and young men to have good fathers and big brothers. Boys will stay boys if they don’t have a mature man to guide and challenge them. Boys will stay boys and really mess up their girlfriends if they don’t learn from their fathers how a women should be respected and honored. For Mako and Bolin, they grew up without a father or mother, so we can see now why it took them so long to mature, and to do it the hard way with much hurt and hurting others involved.

This is also a reason why seminarians focus so much on fraternity (the good kind, not the college frat-boy kind) and put dating on hold (either temporarily or permanently). We’re finding out who we are, so that we can better serve and sacrifice in whatever vocation God is calling us to. Because without this self-awareness, then we have no idea what our flaws and strengths are, and without this understanding we can never better or humble ourselves. Chastity and modesty are the virtues that help us achieve this. Men also need more time alone in prayer with God, without the distractions of dating (because dating should only happen after our relationship with God [Love itself] is on the right path — after all, how can you hope to love anyone if you don’t first know Love?). For more about this, please visit ChastityProject.com.

And there’s seemingly a throwaway line from Prince Wu: “I’m not strong like you, Mako! I can’t help being weak! I was born this way.” Yet, there he is, Prince Wu learning to toughen up under Mako’s training. It goes to show that yes, we are all born weak, illiterate, ignorant and with a bunch of other deficiencies, but does that mean we should stay that way? Heck no! And we see the Prince really mature as the season progresses.

—–2) And as for the series’ finale with episode 13: The Last Stand? A few things stuck out to me:

KorraSavesKuviraFirst, the whole series has been recurrent with self-sacrifice. We see this again, but this time Korra sacrifices herself to save an enemy (no one before Jesus ever taught us to do this!). Especially noteworthy is that it’s Kuvira’s own weapon that is going to kill her, until Korra steps in as a body shield. This analogy fits well with how Jesus took on our fallen nature and our sin (our own weapons, our own mess and selfishness was going to condemn and kill us) and died in our place.

KorraBrokenSecond, after both Korra and Kuvira are blasted into the Spirit World, Korra shares that she has finally realized that all the suffering she has gone through actually were blessings in disguise — without them she would not have matured and grown in wisdom, humility and compassion. Throughout the season, she was struggling to find meaning in her near-death experience and past trauma, and it was only after saving Kuvira that Korra understood. This is one reason why Christians believe suffering is permitted (not caused directly) by God, and that just because someone is suffering does not mean it is better for them to die, thus why euthanasia is morally evil (because murder is a sin, but suffering can be for our good as long as we suffer with Jesus).

Third, forgiveness of one’s enemies was found three times in this episode alone: when Asami forgives her father’s betrayals and deceptions, when Korra forgives Kuvira and saves her out of compassion, when Kuvira herself forgives Korra. Earlier in the season, we saw Korra forgive even Zaheer and accept his help! And it’s important to understand that forgiveness does not necessarily mean trusting the offending person again. It means you let go of the resentment you have for the person who hurt you and move on.

BONUS: the final scene of The Last Stand has most viewers interpreting it in a way that advocates for LGBT issues. All we see is Korra and Asami walking into the Spirit World hand-in-hand and turn to face one another. To me, this is more likely to be about the two becoming closer as sisters. We saw earlier how Mako and Bolin grew as brothers, but now we also see how Asami and Korra grew in their sisterhood. This is supported by the fact that the whole series moved from the romance between the friends in the beginning (Mako and Korra, Mako and Asami) to their love of one another as close siblings at the end. To see this love between Asami and Korra as romantic seems a far stretch to me, and is a sign of how lustful and perverse our society has become to see even this simple innocent gesture between them as sexual.AsamiKorra

Yet, even if our two leading ladies have same-sex attraction: all persons are called to love and to be loved, including those of us with same-sex attraction! And to have same-sex attraction itself is not sinful (despite what many Christians wrongly believe), but to act on that love in a sexual way is a sin, because love need not be sexual (if it needs to be sexual, then it ain’t love). In fact, sexual expression is only appropriate in a holy marriage between one man and one woman (not a marriage done for lust, for social gain, for politics and power, for money, for polygamy, etc.), because the marriage vows [of sacrificial love] help the husband and wife prevent sex from becoming lustful, abusive, perverted and harmful to their love. Catholic teaching pushes back against this culture’s lust and perversion with true love that is understood to be genuine and selfless, chaste and courageous. I hope to share more about this in a more in-depth post, but for now, please let me share these insightful videos and interviews of persons with same-sex attraction instead: The Third Way, and the Desire of the Everlasting Hills. And for more authentic and compassionate Catholic wisdom on this topic, please start here.

Well, that’s all I have for now about this latest Avatar series. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey it put me on, and I hope the best for the creators and cast of the Legend of Korra. Pray for them all!

For more about Korra on HolySmack, look here: The Avatar and the Pope and the Passion.

My First Love Notes

Around this time, seven years ago, Theology of the Body [TOB] became real. It wasn’t just something intellectual and textbook smart anymore. It showed me why God made me the way I was; why I have a mind, heart, soul and body; why I was not some poor soul trapped in flesh; and even why angels are kind of jealous of us human beings (jealous in a good way for the unfallen angels, and jealous in an evil way for the fallen).

Most importantly, this Theology of the Body from Saint John Paul II tore off a leech that had begun ravaging me since I was a little fifth grader. For ten years, I lived with this worm of sin, constantly tempted, perverted, and lustful. My adolescence was spent struggling for freedom, for life that was better, more beautiful and true.

And that’s when a dear friend of mine (many thanks, Mr. Dang) randomly handed me this CD that showed me exactly how I had always wanted to live — even though I didn’t know it back then. In fact, after I listened to it, I hit replay right away! I started taking notes! And it wasn’t even a class! I just had to get this down! On replay for days…

So now, attached for your pleasure and for the glory of God, made public for the first time ever: My First Love Notes (because with TOB I was finally starting to learn how to love)…

Click here for more of my TOB posts.

Re-post: He Doesn’t Need Your Sext: a Response to Jennifer Lawrence

I loved this post from Matt Fradd so much that I’m re-posting it here for your ease of access:

HE DOESN’T NEED YOUR SEXT: A RESPONSE TO JENNIFER LAWRENCE.

Why are you still on this page? Click the link above! Do it now (in Schwarzenegger accent)!!!

And if you need another supporting argument:

DESPITE WHAT JENNIFER LAWRENCE SAYS: MEN DON’T NEED NUDE SELFIES

Final thoughts: How sad the woman who thinks she needs to do such a thing to keep her relationship going, and how much more tragic the man who made her think this way.

Lord, give us the grace to love, forealz.

Introducing: The THIRD Way

“There are not 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.”

-Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

It is sadly true that we Catholic Christians do not know much about homosexual attraction and how it affects people, and it is even sadder that many others know even less. But, let’s stop the ignorance, stop the hatred and misunderstanding and finally know what the Church actually proposes to us.

This short film is a great first step. I personally have waited for something like this for a while: a compassionate and honest look, a loving and fair response to an issue that is so stained with pain, malice and evil on both sides.

Well, this here is the THIRD side, this here is the THIRD Way:

 

Even the Blind See Her Beauty

Once upon a hot summer day, a young man was on a beautiful beach. He saw a young woman even more beautiful – and his heart skipped, fell, and broke. He felt sorrow at the sight. Even today he feels great sorrow… only now does he know why:

Her skinny two-piece was telling me to see her body, but I wanted to see her. I couldn’t even walk up to her. I wanted to say hello and I wanted to know her name, but I couldn’t look without lusting. I broke my own heart. To save her from me, I broke it.BeautifulPartWoman

She was worth so much more than what she wore, and what she wore didn’t do her any justice. Her beauty is so great that nothing deserves to see it. Nothing. Not the rocks, the lake, the birds, trees, grass, not the sun, moon and stars – and not any person – not even her future husband! No one “deserves” the gift to behold her so.

And so I couldn’t bear to look and see her that way. How sad it must’ve made her… that she tried to share her beauty and nobody would notice it the way she deserved to be noticed. All was misunderstood and mistreated, especially herself. Her real worth and person was not realized, but was deprived.

Yet no matter how much love I had for her, I know I was even less worthy to see such beauty. I know myself – and I needed her to help me see HER and not just her body. It is not that her body is bad, but that her body is more cherished than we know. I hope and pray that one day she will be sufficiently loved, and that she knows how great and glorious she really is – even if we all went blind.

 

[First written and posted by Evan Pham on May 30, 2011]

The Dark Knight Fails

Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Trilogy is by far my favorite in film history. Many things were simply done right in the story, but a few things could’ve been better. But since I have a reputation for nitpicking the negatives, I’ve decided to write about more redeeming things.

Except…Miranda and Bruce

Do you remember the scene in The Dark Knight Rises, when Bruce and Miranda share an intimate night together in his lonesome mansion? Yes – the scene that didn’t need to be in the movie at all. Yes – the scene that was followed by a silly shot of Batman overlooking a Gotham sunrise, standing atop a skyscraper, triumphantly posed as if he just accomplished a rite of passage into manhood.

Batman Surveys Gotham

Yes, that one-night-stand between Wayne and Tate. What was it all about? Why have it in the storyline?

Here’s what I think (SPOILER ALERT):

In Bruce’s loneliness after being abandoned by business, boss, and butler, he finds a lovely young woman in Miranda – someone also interested in him. Together, they share something proper only for a married man and woman to share. But it doesn’t end there.

Every act of love-making has consequences. And in this case, Bruce just cursed himself. How so?

1. Miranda turns out to have been only using sex to gain Bruce’s trust (where Bruce was using love only to gain sex).

2. As a consequence of using and being used, Bruce falls for someone out to manipulate him even more. Miranda is Talia al Ghul, none other than Ra’s al Ghul’s vengeance-bound daughter out to finish her psycho-father’s plan to terrorize Gotham.

3. Because of Bruce’s weakness and lust, he fell for Talia’s treachery, which made him overlook a lot of clues a virtuous Batman would’ve noticed sooner and used sooner to track down Bane and the League of Shadows resurgent.

4. Finally, Bruce’s weakness and lust betrayed Selina – his true love, his true friend and companion, despite her stained history. Because he gave away the gift of his body and love to Miranda, he failed in keeping himself for Selina, and that deprives Selina of what she rightfully deserves as Bruce’s bride.

If you are hoping to find your spouse one day, please think of him or her right now:

Men: she’s out there somewhere, waiting to meet you. Wouldn’t you want her to be keeping herself, saving herself for you? Shouldn’t you do the same?

Women: he’s out there looking for you, eager to meet you. Wouldn’t you want him to keep himself, save himself for you, because of how special you are? Shouldn’t you do the same?

[Happily Ever After...]

[Happily Ever After…]