“A bunch of friends who might not be film experts, but sure do have funny opinions, watch bad movies and rag on them” is a podcasting trope by now, if such a thing can exist. How do you wade through the sea of cinematic chit-chat to find one you know will be good? That’s not actually a question I can answer, since I was lucky enough to stumble into Trash & Treasures sideways, but I can help by assuring you that Trash & Treasures is one worth checking out.
Trash & Treasures is where self-described “three weirdos”, Vrai, Dorothy, and Chris, watch movies and sometimes TV series that have been lost down the back of the pop culture couch. Maybe they’re a product of Disney’s awkward and edgy dark era where the company was low on funds and fighting with Don Bluth, maybe they’re an obscure single-release piece of queer action cinema, maybe they’re… just plain bad. Each episode is devoted to a different piece of media, and the trio discuss the plot, context and history of how this movie came to be and how they came to find it, and which parts of it are terrible and which parts are actually, maybe, kind of good.
I am willing to bet that you have been in a fandom and listened to people debate about which characters are doms or subs. Basically, they are asking who, in a BDSM relationship, would be the dominant one and who would be the submissive one. You may have heard people also argue about who is a top and who is a bottom in m/m queer relationships, and while that is not the same as being a dom or a sub, the argument is usually similar. People tend to claim that the more dominant character would be a top and the more submissive or at least less sexually aggressive one would be on the bottom. While that is not necessarily the case, this is an argument I see in fandom a lot. It’s clear from my own experience in fandom that many people are at least kind of interested in the power dynamics of BDSM, even if they aren’t fully into the lifestyle or certain aspects of the BDSM community. However, many of the ideas about BDSM tend to be extremely stereotypical or riddled with misinformation.
Here’s an idea: the media we consume can have deeper meanings that inspire discussion about sociopolitical concepts. Whether we want to think about how various story themes are allegory for other topics, or how various uses of technology are signs of bigger, less concrete ideas, PBS Idea Channel strives to examine the connections between pop culture, technology and art. We shape these concepts just as much as they shape us, and for that reason, this week’s Web Crush Wednesday is Mike Rugnetta’s Idea Channel.
Oh, hello, my fellow NPR babies. Carpooling to school to the dulcet tones of Morning Edition and falling asleep to the BBC World Service. Lazy weekend afternoons to the sound of Prairie Home Companion and the Sunday night oddness of This American Life. Seems like those days would last forever.
I love music and it has often been a comfort to me; I’ve also found value and comfort in nerdy things. So, mixing these two concepts together is the perfect product for me. This week’s Web Crush Wednesday, Adam Warrock, makes self-proclaimed “Overly Enthusiastic Hip-Hop” about pop culture and general nerdy media.
It’s a sad fact that every minority group in any professional field knows: you can’t be just as good as the majority, you have to be better. Women, people of color, and other minority groups are constantly tasked with “proving” their worth. You can never be just as good as straight white men; you have to be better than them to even remotely gain their respect or attention.
We see this a lot in pop culture when female characters are pitted against male characters who are experts at what they do. Irene Adler in the original Sherlock Holmes stories is one good example. It isn’t enough that she be just as intelligent and cunning as Sherlock; she has to be better than him. She has to beat him in order to prove herself to the audience. It’s the same with physical power as well. Many female comic book characters are mocked by their male counterparts for not being as strong as they are, or the women are warned away from training with the men because they might get hurt. Then, the women must prove that not only can they handle fighting with men, but that they are more competent than them at fighting. This is best demonstrated by Stephanie Brown as Spoiler, Robin, and even Batgirl; shewas hardly ever accepted as a “real” superhero by Batman and even on occasion Tim Drake, and had to constantlyattempt to prove herself to them. If the female character cannot prove this, then she is deemed unworthy of working with the men, even if it is obvious that she could hold her own.
The message here is pretty clear: a woman must be better than a man in order to be considered the man’s equal. And that’s pretty fucked up when you think about it.
Yet we see the same sort of narrative play out in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels between Freddy, Lawrence, and Christine.
Did you ever notice that when a fantasy or sci-fi story includes female priests or female religious leaders, the religion is almost always a pagan or pagan-like one? Why is that? Perhaps it’s because in a lot of a fiction, especially within the fantasy genre, the mythology of a fictional world incorporates or is based on some type of religious belief. Because writers so often use religion to build their fictional universes, it’s possible that when creating their own fictional religions, they feel they need to remain true at least to the spirit or structure of the religion on which they are basing their fictional religion.
I don’t know about structure, but I certainly hope writers don’t feel as if the spirit of my faith, Catholicism, is all just patriarchy and female oppression. Despite this, I have never read, watched, or heard of a fictional religion based on Catholicism which features women as priests, bishops, or even, dare I say, the Pope.
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.
As a Catholic woman, the Catholic Church has told me that the person I should look to and emulate as an example of my gender is Mary, the Mother of God. I always had a problem relating to Mary, however; this is perhaps heretical, but I used to feel like Mary didn’t do anything. She gave birth to Jesus, she has a few other scenes with the gospel, but that is mostly it. I also felt Mary has largely no personality. She passively and humbly accepts everything God or Jesus does. Now, in the Catholic tradition Mary is considered sinless, so you might argue I couldn’t relate to Mary because of that. For example, in fiction, characters who have no flaws are pretty boring, right? But Jesus is also sinless and I could relate to him just fine. Jesus weeps over the death of Lazarus; he feels sorrow over Judas’s betrayal; he yells at God and attempts to bargain with God; he gets angry and flips the tables of the money changers. But Mary is always just humble and serene. At least that is what I thought—but I was wrong.
This version of Mary as the passive submissive female to a male church, savior, or god is what feminist theologians call the patriarchal feminine. This is a female figure who is lifted up as the ideal woman for a patriarchal society. Mary’s acting the submissive passive female to a male God and Christ, or even her husband Joseph, sends the message that if women truly want to follow God, then they too must be submissive to men.
Of course this version of Mary lifted up by the patriarchy is not in any way accurate. Mary is actually a very empowered figure. However, Mary as the patriarchal feminine is what we find in both theology and in pop culture.
I am a feminist theologian. To many of you, this may sound like an oxymoron. Just being religious and devout in my faith does not mean I am not a feminist. Furthermore, just because I am a feminist does not mean that I am not religious.
There is a large disconnect between religious feminists and secular (non-religious) feminists, and that disconnect causes a lot of problems. Many religiously-minded feminists become offended at what they see as frankly ignorant critiques of their religion by secular feminists. Most recently, many debates have raged around Muslim women who constantly feel that they have to defend their ideals and religious beliefs to western feminists, especially with certain issues like choosing to wear a hijab.
In pop culture, it is rare to ever see a character who is openly a feminist or even promotes feminist ideals. Religious people are either shown to be radicals or one of the “rare” good religious people. Pop culture shapes how we view the world. Now more than ever, with the rise of groups like Femen, the recent issues between the Catholic Church and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and the general conflict between religion and feminism in the political world, we need religious feminists in pop culture. People need to know that belief in any sort of deity or deities does not inherently mean a believer supports sexism and oppression.