I have been an avid fan and follower of American Horror Story since season one, and it’s been quite the ride watching the never-ending barrage of shocking and offensive moments that this show brings us. When I found out season three was to be subtitled Coven, I was extra excited. I love witches! After all, I consider myself to more-or-less be one. It quickly became clear that American Horror Story: Coven was going to be rather different than Murder House (season one) and Asylum (season two). While still a psychosexual horror show, it was less The Shining and more Mean Girls with heavy occult influences. So I guess kind of like The Craft. That is loosely the plot of The Craft.
And you thought the Plastics were bad.
Coven had a lot of potential, but did a lot of things very wrong (like refer to the power of teleportation as “transmutation”). This post is not long enough to cover all those points, so I’ll focus on just one. Like I said, part of the charm of AHS is all the appallingly offensive scenes, but generally what’s offensive is some mix of gore and/or sex. However, as a pagan, there was something I found particularly offensive this season – the portrayal of the Vodou deity, Papa Legba.
Contributors to this blog have writtenbefore about how Harry Potter is a Christ figure. So I’m not going to go into that here. It’s kind of obvious, people! No, what I’m going to discuss is how Harry ceases to be a Christ figure after Voldemort is defeated. Spoilers for Deathly Hallows after the jump, but. by now, all of you have read all the books and seen all the movies, right?
Harry in the epilogue: Christ figure? Nope. Sappy goody two-shoes figure? Pretty much.
Before Gail Simone wrote Alysia Yeoh as the first trans character in mainstream DC Comics, Neil Gaiman briefly introduced another trans character in the Sandman story A Game of You. Trans woman Wanda Mann is arguably one of the first trans characters in comic books, and, while I utterly love her character, the wayshe is portrayed is definitely extremely problematic. However, this is not meant to be a post discussing Wanda’s overall portrayal as a trans character. Instead, what I want to focus on is the exchange between Wanda and the witch Thessaly, and how their interactions relate tothe current issues that trans people face within the Wicca and Pagan communities.
Ace isn’t the only one putting off a game review. Despite wanting to do a review of the polarizing Remember Me, I keep finding myself distracted by Starbound. I blame Steam. So in lieu of fresh meat, I’ve delved further into the meta of a game series that I’ve already beaten time and time again. And with me, if any series is going to get analyzed, it’s going to be Dragon Age. Usually I look more into issues with the fandom versus the events in the game, but this time it’s all lore. Before I get into it, let me get everyone on the same page.
For those unfamiliar with Wicca and Neopaganism, the idea of the triple goddess may be the furthest thing from your minds when discussing a narrative. I’m no expert myself, but I’d like to think that I know a thing or two. As counterpart to the Horned God in some practices of Wicca and Neopaganism—a representation of masculine energy—the triple goddess represents the three stages of womanhood: the Maiden, Mother, and Crone. These three stages are in turn represented by phases of the moon. The Maiden, a growing woman who has much to learn about the world, is represented in the waxing phase (going from new to full for those like me who never remember the difference). The Mother, having reached fulfillment in all aspects of her life, is represented by the full moon. And the elder Crone, facing death with all her wisdom, is represented by the waning moon as her light fades into the blackness of night. All three parts of this trinity are of equal importance, and that’s what makes a closer inspection of these characters, as well as the events they put into motion, so interesting.
Although there’s an interesting reflection of modern interpretations of religion going on within the setting—Pagan themes are woven through an in-game religion that is based largely off Christianity—that’s not what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about mages; specifically, three female mages. You see where this is going, right?
You probably heard back in November that a new character was taking on the moniker of “Ms. Marvel.” That character is one Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim superheroine from New Jersey, the creation of two artists/writers who are themselves Muslim (Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson). Kamala made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 back in August of last year and is a huge fan of Carol Danvers. In fact, according to Kelly Sue DeConnick, “she is very deliberately placed in a position where she sees Carol protecting civilians from Yon-Rogg.”When Kamala discovers her own powers, she chooses to adopt the Ms. Marvel title in honor of her idol.
Kamala’s first 2014 appearance and her formal debut as Ms. Marvel was in All-New Marvel NOW! Point-One #1, a comic that served as an intro for a number of characters. She now headlines the third volume of Ms. Marvel, which will debut in February. So why am I talking about this? It’s not like she’s the first Muslim superhero on a major imprint, because we’ve had Simon Baz. She’s not even the first Muslim female superhero, if you count Dust, M St. Croix, Faiza Hussain, and others. Again, why am I talking about this?
Because she is so popular. Let me modulate that by saying that she’s popular among the set of people who read Captain Marvel comics, but Captain Marvel #17, in which she is featured, did completely sell out its initial run, inspiring hope for the success of Ms. Marvel Vol. 3. However, there’s a concern to be raised: Does Kamala Khan sell out issues because she’s a sellout? Put another way, is she really the counter to Islamophobia that Muaaz Khan of the Guardian claims her to be?
Many of you who used to read my Supernatural reviews know that I am no longer watching the show because I could no longer handle its rampant racism, sexism, and constant queerbaiting. But as always, Supernatural finds ways to drag me back in, and it started when I saw this gifset and realized that Supernatural made Cain the good guy and Abel the bad guy in the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Now, even in a very secular society, I think most people know this isn’t how the story of Cain and Abel goes. I know it works better with Supernatural’s mythology and I suppose that the writers assumed that they were being clever by revealing the Biblical character everyone thinks is evil as good, but actually following the original Biblical narrative would have been more profound.
After Harry Potter, I’d guess that Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is the second most controversial series of books, at least where the religious right is concerned. And with good reason: the two child protagonists ultimately set out to destroy God. The trilogy is commonly understood to be the anti-Narnia. C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia are a very clear Christian allegory, with heavy-handed Christian symbols and parallels to sacraments. But where Lewis created an obvious allegory, Pullman gives us something more akin to a philosophical position paper in story form. How good of a job does his trilogy do in tackling the problem of God?
So this is kind of sort of a Christmas post, but before you say that Christmas was several weeks ago, technically Christmas lasts until the Baptism of Christ. That’s today, so that makes this post in January acceptable.
Not too long before Christmas this past year, Fox News once again stirred up some controversy about race in a debate of whether or not Santa was white. This eventually led to a comment that Jesus was also white.
Pictured: What Jesus most likely actually looked like.
As someone who studies theology for a living, both comments are utterly laughable to me. But it’s also pretty par for the course when it comes to Christianity. Many figures from Christianity, especially early Christianity, were not white, but as Europe became more Christian, the myth of a white Christ started topredominate. Now, there is nothing wrong with white people having pictures of Jesus, Saint Nicholas, or any other saints/religious figures that look like them. In the same way that people should be able to see themselves in pop culture, people should be able to see themselves in religion. This is why, if you look hard enough, you can find religious iconography of Jesus portrayed as almost every nationality. As religious scholar Reza Aslan says, though, there is a difference between a personal Christ and the real-life historical figure, Jesus. Jesus was a poor Aramaic-speaking Middle-Eastern Jew, not the blonde haired, blue-eyed white guy you see in most Jesus movies.
Organized religion has a lot in common with the military. They both have a hierarchy of power, snazzy outfits, and ostensibly, a founding interest in protecting others from danger, whether it be physical or spiritual. Sometimes religious folk will make the connection explicit, as with the Jesuit sect within the Catholic Church, which was founded by a military man and whose members are called “Soldiers of God”. Nevertheless, in most cases religion and military forces have very different images and priorities.
Fiction sometimes tends to conflate religion with the military to the extent that they are the same thing. Although many religious leaders have spoken out against the idea that violence is ever necessary, it’s not uncommon to open a book, watch a movie, or read a manga that involves priests or religious folk fighting—for any number of reasons, but in a decidedly physical fashion.
And I find that unsettling. St. Thomas Aquinas and other “just war” theorists may have argued that war can be justified for certain reasons, but it’s difficult to look at a regiment of crusaders or even just one nun with a gun and really believe that their intent is to bring peace to a troubled land or to protect innocents. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again—that time when people put up trees in their houses, visit relatives we don’t plan on seeing for at least another year, and gather ’round the television for the plethora of Christmas specials invading our regularly scheduled programming. Most of these specials have a common theme: the true meaning of Christmas. But the thing is, we can’t seem to agree on what that meaning really is.