Star Trek is probably one of the first nerdy shows that I ever experienced. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t watching the Star Trek original series (TOS). I remember, specifically, asking my father why Spock wasn’t captain instead of Kirk. It was probably very obvious from my father’s perspective that I had a little bit of a crush on the dashing and mysterious Vulcan as a child. But mostly I remember when I was a little older, sitting at the dinner table with my mother, and she would tell me all she knew about Star Trek. Like me, my mother was fascinated with the Vulcans, and Spock in particular. She told me about little details she loved seeing in the TV shows and the movies, and she would tell me about the stories in the Trek novels she had read that expanded on Spock’s past and on Vulcan culture. My mom recently passed away this past October after a terrible battle with breast cancer. She was a big nerd like me and she is probably at least partly the reason I am taking the recent death of Leonard Nimoy so hard.
It seems silly, I guess, to truly grieve over the death of a man that I have never, and will never, know. But when I heard about Leonard Nimoy’s passing at work, I felt nearly overwhelmed with grief. His character had felt like a part of my family. Star Trek and Spock were some of the primary ways that I developed a relationship with my mother, and I recently started re-watching TOS in order to feel some connection with my mother again. So for me, his death is extremely personal.
My personal feelings aside, that is the not the only reason I want to honor Leonard Nimoy today. There are many celebrities out there that we, as geeks, love, but sadly we know the celebrities we love are not always the best people.Though I don’t know if Nimoy was perfect (none of us are, really)in many ways Leonard Nimoy was probably one of best examples of an intersectional feminist in our geek culture. It’s his great advocacy for all human rights that I want to honor today.
It isn’t a surprise that Hollywood is obsessed with stories centered around white guys and the same old myths and stories, over and over again. We have three superheroes played by white guys named Chris, and we’re going to be getting three Spider-Man reboots in a span of fifteen years. Even beyond the geek realm, we have biopics about famous white men of history, like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers. Though we did recently have an excellent biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. (Selma), Hollywood all too often focuses on white guys as if they comprise the whole of the human experience. And stories from outside America don’t seem to enter Hollywood’s collective consciousness, so maybe it’s best if we go outside Hollywood for more diversity. Enter the upcoming movie, Bilal.
Last year I wrote an article about nuns in geek culture. Nuns and religious sisters of all stripes have such great potential as iconic feminist characters, but writers spend more time casting them as evil sexy sirens in black and white costumes. But what about the nun’s male counterpart, the monk? Monks are men who take vows of virtue and live apart from society (usually in a community with other monks). They’re mainstays of both Western and Eastern religions. Monks challenge popular stereotypes of what real masculinity looks like. And yet monks face a problem similar to nuns: we can’t seem to break them out of a handful of inaccurate stereotypes.
Spoilers for Doctor Who and Avatar: The Last Airbender after the jump.
The Force and whether or not it’s balanced has always been a central part of the Star Wars mythos. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Force—sometimes referred to as the Way in ancient times—was a field of energy created by all living things. In the prequels, we discover that this energy field actually came about by microscopic organisms called midi-chlorians living in people’s bloodstreams. Someone who had a lot of midi-chlorians was called Force-sensitive, and they could interact with the Force to perform amazing feats—telekinesis, telepathy, precognition, and more.
Naturally, different religious factions came about, with different beliefs about the Force and how best to use it. One of the main tenets was that the Force needed to be balanced, and according to prophecy, that balance could only be brought about by a Chosen One. This Chosen One prophecy ended up being a central part to the prequel universe, and it was something about Star Wars that I was always interested in exploring more. Unfortunately, the prequels never explain to us what the prophecy is, the Chosen One’s role in it, or what balancing the Force even means.
So we all known Superman is Jesus, right? I talked aboutthat before, and while it’s downplayed in the comics, it’s so obviously and almost painfully written into some of the movies that you have to wonder if there are any non-Christian fans of Superman at this point. Even when Superman isn’t being practically written as Christ, he is always displayed as having extremely Christian values. I don’t have a problem with it; I mean, it makes a lot of sense. Superman was found and raised by two midwestern farmers. So yeah, Superman more than likely follows some form of Protestant Christianity. A lot of people argue that he’s Methodist, which I can see, but it’s also never really specified; he just comes off as generic Christian.
Except when he’s proclaiming his faithto the god Rao, the lead god in a pantheon of others that Superman’s people, the Kryptonians, worshiped. So, what, is Superman a Christian? Did he convert to Raoism after learning it was the faith of his people? Did he combine the two? Well, let’s try to figure it out!
I work at a church, and right now I’m spending a lot of time trying to teach kids about sin, specifically about repentance and forgiveness. These kids are old enough to have a pretty good handle on telling the difference between right and wrong, but getting them to say “I forgive you” and mean it is a different story. Getting yourself right with God (or the Gods) and your fellow human beings are big parts of many religions, and huge plot points of many of our most popular stories.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is the first musical that I ever saw live and one of my favorite musicals that I was part of in high school. Because of this, the musical holds a lot of nostalgia for me. Now that I’m older and know my Bible a lot better than I did before, I have to say that the musical seems a lot darker to me than it used to, but it’s really, really not trying to be.
If you have never seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, let me explain. The musical is written like some very talented youth ministers decided that the Joseph story was what was going to revitalize their parish youth ministry. That’s not to say that it is bad at all; it’s just very simple. The story itself is the bare bones of the Joseph story with a variety of quirky and goofy songs and bright colors to keep the kids interested. There is even a narrator who tells the story and a kids choir in the show. So while the musical could appeal to anyone, it is definitely family-oriented and straightforward in its message. What makes this awkward (for me anyway) is the subject matter certainly is not! So we have several happy goofy songs that talk about Joseph’s brothers beating him within an inch of his life and selling him into slavery, and about Joseph being sexually assaulted and thrown into prison. Yep…
Trigger warning for rape and rape culture after the jump.