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!

——Bonus two: Check out this list of pro-life insights from the movie.

Malice and Maleficence

MALEF_001A_G_ENG-SG_70x100.inddRecently, a dear friend of mine requested I should view and review one of her favorite films. At first I was reluctant, because I had heard negative reviews about Maleficent, and I also secretly dislike Angelina Jolie as an actress (yes, she bores me). But after giving the film a look, here are the really powerful moments of the tale:

—SPOILER ALERT—

—–1) The reviews I tend to read before considering an unknown film saw Maleficent as a poor remake of the original Sleeping Beauty. Now I am not a fan of the original, so this gave me even more reason not to see the remake. However, seeing Maleficent as a standalone (isolated and without memory of the original) film is the perspective I am sharing from, and from this point of view, let me continue…

—–2) “Don’t curse in the first place! You will spend your lifetime regretting it.” In the film, we see Maleficent take revenge on the selfish Stefan by cursing Stefan’s most loved one: his daughter Aurora. As the film progresses, we see that Maleficent seeks to undo the curse, but it is impossible.

This reminds me of some advice from St. Philip Neri about gossip (and other sins we commit). The story goes: Once a woman came to confess her sins, and the priest gave her a penance to help her make better choices in the future. He told her, “Take a pillow filled with feathers, and climb to the highest point in the city. From there, shed all the feathers from the pillow and let the wind catch and scatter them across town. Afterwards, climb down to the ground and collect every feather, stuff them back into the empty pillowcase. This is to show you that when you sin, even when merely gossiping, your sins and malicious words spread out and cause evil everywhere. And you can never undo and unsay everything.”maleficent536acd244e2df

—–3) From this tragic and irrevocable curse, we see that it is never right to punish a child for the sins of the parent! NEVER. So what Maleficent does is unacceptable, is evil, and malicious (hence, her name). This may seem obvious, but there are many people who indeed even murder their children in order to escape the responsibilities and consequences of their actions. I wrote about this just a few weeks back, so please check it out here: Children of Crime.

—–4) Once the curse takes hold and sends Aurora into indefinite sleep, we see the metaphor: her perpetual sleep is a death, with only a glimmer of hope that is more like hopelessness. Desperate to raise the girl from sleep (think of Luke 8:40-56 when Jesus woke Jairus’ dead daughter!) but unable to because the Prince has no real love for Aurora, Maleficent (who at this point has become like a mother to the girl) kisses Aurora’s brow, saying goodnight and goodbye.

It is here where we see that true love is not necessarily romantic or sexual! In this world, so many people confuse sex and romance for love, when actually the greatest love does not depend on those things. When parents love their children, when friends love one another, when children love their parents, when God loves us and tells us to even love our enemies, none of these loves should ever be sexual or romantic, and they are all powerful examples of love, true and chaste.

Of course, the love between a husband and wife have romance and sexual aspects, but the point is that their love is not based on those aspects, that even when their is no sex or romance, their love is still true because they choose to be faithful, loyal, selfless, and generous. Love is based on how we help get each other to Heaven, not on how much we can get from each other.maleficent-kiss-aurora

—–5) Lastly, we see that despite the evil Maleficent did, forgiveness is always possible if there is love, and only if there is love. Her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much, and love makes forgiveness always possible! Evil does not win unless we let it. For a great post about this, please see: Forgiveness is For Giving.

—–End) All in all, though not a film I think everyone must see, if you do see it, it wouldn’t be a waste!

Gauging the Age of Adaline

AgeAdaline0As soon as the trailer for the Age of Adaline hit me (during my date with Cinderella), I knew I had to see it: a story about a person made immortal has been gestating in my mind since 2009. I needed to see if Hollywood stole my idea, and if it did, to see if it was good enough.

Fortunately, the Age of Adaline takes a different route, so I guess I’ll continue nurturing my baby. Phew!

Anyway, I thought the Age of Adaline was decent enough. Definitely did not feel my time and money went to waste. Here’s what I thought was most thoughtful of the film:




—SPOILER ALERT!—


—–1) The opening scenes of Adaline’s (Blake Lively) life feature one thing in common: the Catholic Church. We see her daughter’s baptism, we see her father’s funeral, and we even see her wedding in St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco (before the cathedral was “remodeled”). I’ve been trying to figure out why the Church is so prominent in the film’s beginning, but not so throughout the rest of the film. At no point is the Church mocked or even ignored in the film, but actually churches keep reappearing in later scenes. Not sure why the director included all these churches, but not much seems to come of them plot-wise.AgeD12

—–2) The emphasis on faithfulness in marriage as union of husband and wife. We see this clearly when William (Harrison Ford) strongly reaffirms his love for his wife after she becomes upset with his reminiscing of Adaline (you are not second pick!). We see this even more when William gives a toast to his wife on their 40-year anniversary: “to the love of my life, the mate of my soul…” Heck, in this culture of divorce and promiscuity, any focus on the beauty and fidelity that marriage demands is a win for me!AgeAdaline1

—–3) 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.

—–4) Lastly, the recurring theme of resurrection. I did not notice this until I came home and looked up the movie’s score. Two tracks: First Resurrection and Second Resurrection. Furthermore, other Church-sounding tracks are: The Scar, Hospital Confessions, Coming Back to Life, and Start Again. First, in the film we see Adaline come back from the dead in a semi-glorified state each time. The first time she cannot age past 29 years old. The second time, she resumes aging and finds it to be an even greater blessing.* In fact, her first time rising from death is obviously like a baptism! As for The Scar, recognizing someone by their scar reminds me of how we recognize Jesus from any wannabes: only the true Lord has the scars of His Crucifixion, which reveal His true love for us. Relating to Hospital Confessions, the Sacrament of Reconciliation always gives us great healing and forgiveness, which allows us to Come Back to Life and Start Again. Anyway, funny how much meaning is in the titles of a score’s tracks!

*—–BONUS) Getting back to aging actually being a blessing, it’s much like the happy fault: that if Adam and Eve did not sin, then Jesus would not have been our Savior. God makes goodness and beauty out of ugly things, and aging can be beautiful! In the case of marriage, aging allows us to grow closer, it allows our souls to grow closer. Because our bodies weaken and deaden, we rely more on our souls to shine and show love. Because an elderly body is not attractive, we see more easily where the beauty of the person truly is (kind of like Beauty and the Beast!).

All in all, not a bad film, could have should have been better, but enjoyable nonetheless.

AgeAdaline3

The Gentleman and the Tie

50 Shades of S***Last weekend, a book became a movie that should’ve never even been a book in the first place. But alas, here it is… 50 Shades of Grey.

Now, I’ve read all the criticisms I could find from sources I trust (links at the bottom), and I’d like to just do one thing nobody else has done: judge the book’s cover.

I take book covers very seriously (like when I designed my own), and this is no exception. What we see here is a tie, and that’s pretty much it. So… what can we make of this?

Does it stand for the business man in the book?
Does it represent status?
Does it show off some fashion trend?
Is the tie a motif? Does it appear in the book?

And of course it can mean all those things. But here’s what I think most people miss:

A tie. Think about it. Putting a rope around your neck. If one end of the tie is pulled, the loop contracts. Like a lynching tool. Also known as a noose. And just because it’s silk doesn’t mean it can’t suffocate and strangle.

Why would any sane person invent such a thing and call it fashion, handsome, strong, and manly?

And why would an entire culture think this is something men should wear?

Because it symbolizes and actualizes VULNERABILITY. It represents the gentleman under the paisley because it makes the man under the paisley gentle! If a man has this noose around his throat, he is made vulnerable and weak, even though he may be strong and secure. It shows that he is willing to be vulnerable and gentle, though he could be vicious and violent.

And vulnerability opens him up to love.

In fact, only love is worth becoming vulnerable for. And I’m talking about REAL love — love that involves selflessness, sacrifice, fidelity, and devotion. A man who really admires a woman always risks rejection when he asks her out, asks for her number, asks her out again, and again, and again, and finally asks for her hand in marriage. At every point, a true gentleman knows the lady is a free person who can decline and totally reject him. And at every point, the man who truly loves her knows that she is worth being vulnerable for. She is worth the risk of being rejected and embarrassed and devastated. To this gentleman, just getting the chance to ask her is worth it!

But 50 Shades of Grey has it backward. The book is about a woman becoming weak and vulnerable and abused by a vicious and violent boy. He uses her. Manipulates and control her. He puts her in the noose instead.

Here we have a boy unwilling (maybe even unable) to be selfless and sacrifice (and those are main ingredients to true love!).

Nothing gentlemanly about it.

Nothing manly about it.

Nothing lovely about it.

Pray for all the 50-Shades fans, and for the author: E.L. James. They need it.

Here are the criticisms I mentioned (highly recommended, but for mature readers only):

1) A whole collection of articles about 50 Shades of Grey from PornEffect.com (an anti-porn site).

2) Another collection, from ChastityProject.com

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.

A Look-See at Lucy

Lucy-BannerWhen the first Lucy trailer hit my face, I was about to scream plagiarism!

On a warm autumn day in 2002, I daydreamed about a girl who had an accident that fully unleashed her mind. From then on, the scenes of how she would live played out in my imagination… and eventually give rise to the raw origins of my novel: Little Miss Lucifer.

I wasn’t worried though, and am not even threatened by Lucy. The story is way different. But even so, after spoiling it by reading the plot on Wikipedia, I still wanted to see what director Luc Besson could do with such a character. Here’s what I think of Lucy:

[SPOILER ALERT]

Saint Lucy1) First, the name of the film and Johansson’s character is — you guessed it — Lucy. But who was the person who popularized that name? Who is the person who every “Lucy” afterwards was named after? Well, like most names we have in English today, those names belonged to saints who launched them into popular use. Think of MaryAndrewJohn, and yep… Lucy.

Saint Lucy was a young Christian woman who was persecuted for her love of Jesus. One of the ways she was tortured before being martyred was that her eyes were ripped out from her face. Many icons of St. Lucy depict her holding her two eyeballs in a dish.

But here’s how this relates to the movie: In Latin, the “lu” in the name Lucy refers to “light,” as in “luminous” or “luster”. When St. Lucy was blinded and murdered, she no longer saw created light (the light of the sun, stars, firelies and lightning), but instead became able to see the true Light of the World: Jesus Christ, the God who created all other lights. (Btw, notice all the emphasis and focus on Lucy’s eyes in the film and its ads.)

In the film, Lucy also symbolizes this as someone who becomes able to see more than light. She can see, and sense, the world we know as mystery. She even explains that time is the standard of defining reality, not us humans and our standards, but time. Now, I don’t agree with this because even time itself can be destroyed (since spacetime is only a product of the Big Bang), and if time itself can be destroyed, then what? Instead, what I take from this is that we do not define what is real or true. Instead, the film tells us that reality and truth exist apart from what we think of it. In short, the film busts relativism (the idea that something is true only as long as we want it to be, and that we can all have our own truths about reality) into smithereens!

Creation of Adam2) Lucy in the movie also amasses huge amounts of information. She and others believe that knowledge is the purpose of life. She gains the ability to time-travel, manipulate matter, teleport, and even control other people. There’s criticism out there that the film’s use of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam suggests that Lucy has become god. However, if this is the film’s intention, then it cancels itself out in a few ways. First, Lucy knows a lot about how and what things are, but she does not know why: as in why is there such a thing as the universe as opposed to nothing? Why is there life? Why does she exist? Why does she love her parents (their conversation was one of my favorites in the film)? Why is there love anyway? And what is love? Why are some things beautiful and others not? Why does beauty exist?Why does anything exist at all? Second, Lucy can do a lot, but she couldn’t even save her own body from decay. Unless there’s a sequel about her resurrection, she’s a pretty flimsy god. Third, she’s an even flimsier god since she needs a cell phone to tell her friend that she is everywhere (and more on this below). Fourth, is it really enough to know something, to know all things? If you had all the information in creation, but nobody ever existed to share it with, would that be enough for you? If you knew about love and what it was, but you were never loved by anyone, and had no one to love in return… would that be enough for you? What I’m saying is that knowledge is not the purpose of life… love is! And this reminds me of a quote from beloved Pope Benedict XVI: “For those who love, you can never have enough information” — meaning that a lover never tires of discovering and rediscovering  the beloved.

3) So, what’s up with Lucy needing to use the cell phone? In fact, what’s up with all these latest mind-movies (like Transcendence and Her) showing that untethered consciousness still needs a way to be physically expressive? Could it be because God (the real One) created us humans that way? That we need the physical to make ourselves known? That “the body alone, and only the body, can make visible the invisible” (I stole that quote from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body). Think about it: if I had an idea, how would anyone know about it? Unless… I used my brain, nerves, eyes, hands, skin, bones, muscles, etc. to pick up a pen and write it out. Or used my vocal cords, lungs, breath, tongue and teeth to speak it out? We need our bodies, because we are our body. It’s not just something we have, it is us.

Lucy4) And back to the beauty question from #2 above: beauty is one of those realities that knowledge and information alone cannot explain. I mean, how do we recognize beauty? Why does it exist? Why is it important to us? And don’t just think of visual beauty, but think of music, flavor, fragrance, and texture! (Yes, this movie did make me think of this, after all… if knowledge was everything, why bother making it all pretty with Scarlett and cinematography?)

5) Scarlett made me notice another thing: when her roommate was gushing about her night with a man, Lucy was totally disinterested. Lucy not only didn’t care, but even mocked it. This reminds me of why some men and women in the Catholic faith choose a life of celibate chastity. I’m thinking of priests and religious sisters (aka: nuns). That’s right! Scarlett Johansson’s character just exemplified celibacy. Here’s how: priests and nuns put the ordinary and natural desire for married sexual intimacy aside and instead choose the extraordinary and supernatural desire for intimacy with God. By living celibate lives, they’re witnessing that we were not meant merely for marriage with another person, but were meant for marriage with the Person, with God who is more real than any creature, more beautiful than beauty (since He created beauty). In the movie, Lucy knows reality more than the average person and sees that sexual intimacy is not enough for her — that compared to intimacy with supreme reality, sexual intimacy is kind of a joke. [NOTE: Catholic teaching does not say that sexual intimacy is a joke (married intimacy is very holy), only that any other intimacy is incomparable to intimacy with God.] (Click here to see what I mean (these sisters went on Oprah to share their story!) (And click here for how Professor-X from X-Men also exemplifies celibate chastity.)

6) The movie starts and ends with this voiceover: “We were given life over a billion years ago…” Notice that it says we were given life. Not that life popped out of nowhere, or that we gave life to ourselves, but that it was given to us. In that case… who gave it to us? Being given something implies there’s a giver…

7) Lastly, there’s a sort of throwaway line that Lucy says when the lead police officer warns her about people dying. She says point blank: “No one ever really dies.” Now, this is a claim Christians should know very well, since we profess to believe in the Resurrection and the Life, that we will all live forever, and not just spiritually, but bodily too! So, not sure what to make of this line from Lucy since nothing else follows it up and fleshes it out.

8) All in all, I enjoyed Lucy. It made me ask a lot of philosophical questions and hinted at theological truths. It was fun, although corny at times. I’m just glad it wasn’t a waste of 90 minutes and a free admission, and I’m even more glad Luc Besson didn’t steal my idea about a girl who goes 100%. Yet, the greatest disappointment was that Besson himself didn’t go 100% on this film.

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: