nesting * geeking * critiquing

{critiquing}

Star Wars Is Like My Cat

It’s been over a week now since The Force Awakens (TFA) came into our lives. And after 4 viewings, including the 7-movie marathon on opening day, I feel like I can finally summarize my feelings about the newest addition to the Star Wars saga.

Growing up, I had the sweetest, most gentle cat in the world—his name, ironically, was Goliath. He was there for every milestone, every moment of joy, every pang of sadness, snuggling and unleashing the full power of cats’ magical calming agent: purring. He was loyal and faithful and wonderful. Just like the original trilogy of Star Wars.

Goliath became one with the Force, so to speak, when I was 16 years old in 1999. Coincidentally, that was the same year that the prequel trilogy dawned.

In 2002—the same year Attack of the Clones released—I adopted a feisty little kitten whom I named Storm (middle name Trooper). Storm was the exact opposite of Goliath; where he had been solid black with yellowish-green eyes, she was a cream and gray tabby with piercing blue eyes. His utter devotion and love was answered with her indifference and bitey-ness. Like Goliath before her, she too was a remarkably good snuggler with an even stronger aptitude for purring me to sleep.

Over the next 12 years, Storm and I had an undeniable love/hate relationship. She exhibited violent mood shifts that usually ended with a new set of bloody teeth marks on my arms or legs. In spite of the scar-inducing teeth, we grew into a codependent pair. When she was good, she was heartbreakingly good, and when she was bad…well, most people would’ve put her down. Not unlike the prequel trilogy, if you catch my meaning.

Too mean to go out any other way, Storm succumbed to colon cancer in January. A long-haired tortoiseshell fluffball named Rue joined our family a month later. You won’t be surprised by this point in the post to find that my feelings about her virtually mirror how I feel about The Force Awakens.

When I first met Rue at the shelter (her name was Zeda then…no thanks), it was a wholly bittersweet experience. I was super excited at the prospect of getting a new kitten but I was emotionally exhausted from losing Storm. Rue, to her credit, was ridiculously wonderful on her own accord and gave me no choice but to enjoy her presence…and yet, I came away perplexed. I wanted to love her, there was little reason not to, but I needed time to process.

I got time, as Rue needed her spay operation before we could bring her home. When we picked her up a couple of days later, I made a conscientious effort to look at her with fresh eyes.

Rue, like The Force Awakens, isn’t here to replace the previous “friends” who helped shape my being, but rather to supplement. Some of her behavior recalls that of my earlier loves and my heart swells with nostalgia. Her personality and quirks are uniquely hers, which brings me utter joy. And some of the things she does…well, they kind of irk me. She’s not perfect, that’s for sure. Some of the irksome behavior is just bad and some of it is largely because it falls flat compared to the grand narrative I’ve created in my head.

There’s a lot to love about TFA, and I think I can say now with certainty that I do love it. Even with last night’s 4th viewing, it coaxed tears out of me during several scenes; some happy, some sad. That’s something few films can boast. But cats, man, cats hit me in the feels every time!

Rue is not impressed with Leia buns

Rue is not impressed with Leia buns

Spoilerrific ‘Gripes & Likes’ post coming soon!

 

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Gendered Toys and the Target Tantrum

I’m probably going to regret posting this. Even so, here it is: I don’t understand the current hoopla surrounding Target stores.

Target recently announced that they’re going to stop gender-labeling certain departments of their stores—specifically Toys, Home and Entertainment. Instead of specifying which toys or bedding options are aimed at girls or boys, they’ll live in generic toy and bedding sections. Despite Target’s assurance that they’re not changing clothing departments, there is alarm and panic in some circles.

Why does it matter what I think? Well, for starters, this is something to which I’ve given a lot of thought over the years, not just as a knee-jerk reaction to the corporate announcement. Moreover, I’m seemingly in the minority on this when it comes to my demographic: the aforementioned “some circles.” I’m an unapologetic evangelical Christian and a conservative. I may lean a bit more towards the moderate end of the spectrum in some regards but I still identify as part of the political right. Assuming Trump isn’t the nominee—and there’s not a better 3rd-party candidate—I’ll likely default to voting Republican in the next presidential election.

While I’m sure there are other arguments to justify the Target outrage, these are the two I’ve heard most vehemently:
1. Franklin Graham (who I largely respect), among others, alleges that Target’s decision discredits God’s creation of two distinct genders, male and female.
2. Target’s move is said to be a slippery slope towards making everything (including clothing) gender-neutral, empowering an increasingly liberal world.

To the first, I genuinely fail to understand the direct correlation. Yes, I believe that God did create male and female for one another physically and emotionally. Beyond just the complementing anatomy, I believe He endowed each sex with certain qualities and characteristics. However, the fundamentals of said qualities and characteristics are obviously not distributed identically from person to person, regardless of their sex. It is those subtleties and differences that make each of us the “fearfully and wonderfully made” individuals who were knit together in our mothers’ wombs. [Or perhaps you believe that our lives are dictated by genetic coincidence, and that’s your prerogative.]

Which brings me to the decades I’ve had to consider this whole thing. I’m a girl, and I’ve got the plumbing, hormones and 32 years of living it to back me up. But I’m not exactly a girly-girl, and I never have been. I played with Barbie dolls, tinkered with fashion and swooned over boy bands, yet from my very earliest memories I know that I loved Superman, Ghosbusters and Star Wars. Those weren’t exactly marketed for girls in the ’80s…nor are they today.

There are girls who enjoy superheroes and trains and dinosaurs. For that matter, there are boys who like to play with stuffed animals and dolls rather than action figures and toy weapons. That doesn’t mean they will grow up to be transgendered or unable to fill traditional societal roles. And regardless of what they grow up to be, we as Christians are called to love. Period. You don’t have to agree with his or her lifestyle, but you must love him or her as a fellow human being created in God’s own image. I digress.

As an adult, it’s easy to justify buying toys or sheets from whichever store section you please. As a child, though, it can feel like running the gauntlet just to get a glimpse of your favorite characters on store shelves. No matter how much parents embrace and encourage a child’s enthusiasm, it can feel like you’ve crossed some invisible line that makes you inherently weird because you’re a little girl in the boys’ section (or vice versa). Even if you’re too young to read, you can see the signage that makes it impossibly clear that you’re out of your proverbial lane.

Now I’m not advocating we petition Star Wars to incorporate pink into their packaging (please, don’t use pink!) or demand that Barbie streamline to androgyny. They don’t even have to live side by side on the shelves—that wouldn’t make much sense from a merchandising standpoint anyway. But why as an overarching categorization do we have to label them ‘Boy Toys’ and ‘Girl Toys’?

There are plenty of stores that don’t differentiate, Kohl’s among them. They have a toy section. Plain and simple, TOYS. Know what else they have? Housewares and bedding that aren’t blatantly separated based on which sex “should” like the designs. I’ve not heard any complaints about/threats to boycott Kohl’s nor TJ Maxx/Marshalls, which merchandises in the same way. So why the outrage over Target; is the problem that they were overt in informing us about the changes? We petition for transparency then protest when we get it.

To the second point, it’s true that small moves and counter-moves can eventually culminate in big shifts. And maybe the end-game for places like Target is to ultimately shift culture in favor of more European, post-Christian norms and mores. I’m not one of their executives, but this feels like a somewhat paltry move if that’s the goal. More likely, I suspect they just see dollar signs and ebb with the tide of money.

I do think Christians people in general need to be cognizant of what’s going on with society. And, by all means, talk with your wallet and support the companies that you feel best represent your values.

For me personally, I see a lot of the other things happening in our world today that cause more distress than signage in a toy section or home goods. I sincerely don’t understand how this is the best battle to wage…let alone the right hill to die on.


Gotham

If you missed the premiere of FOX’s Gotham, they’re airing an encore tonight (Friday). Or you could just read what I think of it and save yourself the hassle.

Love and Hate are not opposites. Love and Indifference are.
Love and Hate, by their very nature, both exist on and elicit some degree of passion. Indifference is merely a shrug and a “meh.”

I’m just north of indifference after Gotham’s first outing, though there are a few things keeping me tethered to the idea of testing the waters again next week.

The first of which is not morbid curiosity—though there’s a healthy enough dose of that—but rather an inexplicable attachment to a couple of characters. The kid who plays Bruce Wayne displays a compelling range of emotion, and I rather enjoyed the little glimpses of his life at Wayne Manor after his parents’ death. The OC guy, now pre-Commissioner Gordon, manages to be quite likable without much evident charisma. In less than a hour, though, we see him adapting to his situation, going from a straight-laced noob to a calculating, latent dissenter. Gordon doesn’t grab your attention by having a big, boisterous personality or even by being the relatable ‘every man’ in a world of crazies; instead, his likability is almost completely fueled by his actions, which subtly demonstrate that we’re watching a multidimensional character who could have a legitimately interesting arc ahead.

As for the villains…I really like the casting for Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin). He’s sniveling and skeevy and kinda perfect, but his presence felt ham-handed. To that point, I found just one placement particularly intriguing: Edward Nygma (who we know will eventually be the Riddler) as a forensic specialist for the Gotham City Police Department. His position and delivery felt like that of a playful yet socially awkward intellectual and less like fan-service.

My biggest complaint* about Gotham thus far is that the creators obviously wanted to get the most bang for their buck with the first episode. Consequently, they made their universe far too small far too quickly with far too much explication. With so many current and future villains shoehorned into 40-some minutes, it all felt overly contrived. Every bad guy doesn’t need to be in every episode. Every bad guy doesn’t need to be in cahoots with all of the other bad guys. And most importantly, we the audience do not need to be told so explicitly who everyone is. Let the casual fans create theories about interconnectness while the die-hards discover how established storylines are modified and portrayed. A gradual, captivating narrative with a satisfying reveal can work for both avid and uninformed Batfans.

It’s not without promise; in fact, it’s possible that Gotham could hit its stride and ultimately be fantastic. Unfortunately, there’s an awful lot of “meh” to muddle through so soon out of the gate.

tweet*Other complaints…
• Jada Pinkett Smith. Seriously, her character is just awful.
• Uncomfortable camera angles that get up in people’s faces as they’re running. Not flattering.
• Is Catwoman supposed to be a teenager? She’s got one of those faces that kind of looks young but kind of looks like she could be in her 40s. It’s unsettling.
• Can we cut the camp just a little bit?! While I appreciate that it’s got enough levity to keep it out of the Nolan-verse, I fear that its zany tendencies could push it into the realm of the ’90s films.

 


Why I’m Not Doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

Unless you’ve been completely unplugged from all media for the last few weeks, you’re familiar with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge campaign. And in the off chance you have just resurfaced and are unfamiliar, welcome back! The ‘challenge’ is to dump ice water on yourself and donate money to support ALS research charities, or don’t do the ice water and donate more money to make up for not embarrassing yourself.

It’s a clever campaign, I guess. It’s simple enough that anyone can do it, the basic premise is one that can be manipulated in a number of creative ways and it capitalizes on humanity’s apparent desire to plaster their likenesses on the internet for the world to see. Plus, it gives us another way to emulate celebrities (“they’re just like us!”).

I tried to fly under the radar by neglecting to like or comment on others’ videos, but it finally caught up with me. My rotten cousin ‘nominated’ me to take the challenge this week.

Well, I learned as a little girl that it’s dangerous to have water dumped on you…melting and whatnot. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

In lieu of ice water, I have made donations to 2 causes: Team Gleason for ALS and the Africa Oasis Project, an initiative to provide clean water to drought- and poverty-stricken areas across Africa. In most cases, we are blessed with ample access to water—this ice bucket challenge thing would be a lot less successful with buckets of hot, dry dirt. Africa, though, has the lowest coverage of water supply and sanitation services in the world.

Please consider supporting a cause or two, and feel free to take an ice bath if you really want to.


17 Minutes

A lot of things can happen in 17 minutes. Satiating a desire to see an anticipated film is not one of those things.GOTG

I was tickled pink over nabbing passes for the advanced screening of Guardians of the Galaxy. As per usual pre-screening procedure, I arrived at the theater 90 minutes early. There were about a dozen people already in line, so I took my place and set about reading my library book. More people filed in behind me, an excited bunch eager to see Marvel’s next big thing.

After about 45 minutes, a theater employee came by to ensure we all knew the screening was only 17 minutes long. Admittedly, this came as a surprise to me. A glimpse at the GotG facebook page tells me that I’m not the only person who was misinformed. “Featuring 17 minutes of exclusive footage” apparently does not mean the same thing to me that it does to the fine folks at Disney; I thought it meant 17 minutes in addition to the feature film.

Alas, I was already invested—sore backside from sitting on concrete floor, 41 miles away from home, Severus on his way over after having left work early—there was no point in leaving without seeing something. So we stayed to watch a 17-minute piece of IMAX-y brilliance.

Okay, maybe ‘brilliance’ is a bit strong but it’s an absolute blast!

The majority of our viewing was a scene where our scoundrels bust out of prison; I’m under the assumption that this scene is early in the film, though probably not the first. We were given only the tiniest bit of background before things kicked up a notch to full-on action. And you know what? It really works. By sheer virtue of the characters’ interactions with one another, you fall in love with them. Minimal groundwork on how they each found themselves in said situation could be beneficial, I guess, but I’d be perfectly content if it all just started there.

My early assessment is that Guardians manages the fine line of being funny without straying into silly territory. Or at least not detrimentally so. I mean, yeah, a CG raccoon and his sidekick (who happens to be a tree) steal the show. But the fact that they’re CG doesn’t seem to hinder things. In addition to being adorable, Rocket is clearly the brains of the operation; Groot is both brawn and heart. Like Gamora, Drax and Star-Lord, they’re all just there being quippy, likable scalawags.

If the rest of the movie is as good as what I saw last night, this one is golden. Absolutely can’t wait for to see the rest!!!