July 21, 2012


After the horrific massacre/maiming at a cinema in Colorado, this film will ever be associated with tragedy. Our prayers will continue for all those swept up in this nightmare.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is the last in the Batman trilogy of films that will be helmed by auteur-director Chris Nolan. Nolan is one of those directors who pack theaters because he IS the director, and DKR is a challenging journey inside HIS highly moral* and labyrinthine mind. (Nolan was born in London in 1970. His wife, Emma Thomas, has produced some of his films. They have three children. Nolan’s brother and a writer, Jonathan, with whom he collaborates on his films, attended Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL.)

DKR is a continuum of Nolan’s first two highly-acclaimed Batman films. Although the female actresses in each film keep changing, Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman has been deliciously consistent through the three films. Nolan stated that he wanted Bale because he had so many other things on his mind as director, he wanted to just entrust the role to someone who could totally run with it without a lot of supervision, which, of course, Bale did. Bale has that mysterious star power that attracts both men and women, and even when he’s at his most understated, you can’t take your eyes off him. He seems like someone who could have done something OTHER than acting, and so, as devoted as he is to his craft, you feel his mind is also somewhere else at the same time, and that he could take or leave acting. But I could be totally wrong.

We left the Batman seemingly weak and defeated at the end of the second film: “The Dark Knight” (2008). He has become a recluse, wounded in body and spirit, but Gotham is suddenly challenged by a new foe: “Bane” (not to be confused with “Bale”--played by Nolan’s fellow Londoner and “Inception” actor, Tom Hardy) and his treacherous sewer-dwelling army. What convinces the Batman to come out of “retirement”? The ever-faithful Alfred (Michael Caine) has a lot to do with it, but one of the sparks is a new Catwoman-jewel thief (Ann Hathaway). When I first saw the stills of the upcoming film with Hathaway as Catwoman, she seemed so awkward, miscast and laughable. Boy, was I wrong. Hathaway slides into the role with ease. Her felinity is played down; her martial arts skills, scrappiness, ego and ruthlessness played up.

The film IS and feels very long: 164 minutes! But we don’t care because we love the story, the Batman, Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan. The tables are constantly turning and the dilemmas get stickier and stickier. Each character has a rich back story, including the villains. EVERYONE is tainted in Gotham and beyond. And yet, a sad childhood or a Catch-22 situation may serve to give us insight into a personality, but they are never an EXCUSE for doing the wrong thing. There are many inchoate themes running through DKR (Hope! Despair! Failure! Moving on! Sacrifice! Torture! Justice! Darkness! Light!). Thoughts tumble over other thoughts and ideas, and there are A, B, C, D and E stories. A multiplicity of characters, crowds? The more the merrier. Almost Cecil B. DeMille-ish. There’s a sort of largesse and generosity (rather than grandiosity) in not wanting to exclude anyone or fail to tell their story (The orphan boys! All those people in the pit!), which leads to an inability (obviously) to edit anything out or down. :]

The takeaway seems to be: We’re all trying to make something of ourselves (however twisted that turns out to be). We are all desperately trying to accomplish something. But no one lives in a vacuum—we all influence the people we live with, even the strangers around us. Some people have been pretty thoroughly distorted by life’s cruelty and lash out to destroy all around them (Bane), and others are still on the fence: as the Batman says to Catwoman: “There’s more to you than that.”

Although the Batman saga is definitely set up at the end for many more sequels, Nolan gave us a very satisfying conclusion to his take, and has both raised the bar and deepened the lore of this chiaroscuro superhero forever. So much so that the audience in my theater applauded heartily.


--It WAS rather jarring to see explosion after explosion, gun battle after gun battle, murder after murder, slaughter after slaughter in light of Aurora, Colorado.

--How do I feel about extreme violence like this in films? As a woman, I hate it, and I don't find it at all entertaining. I just endure it and hope they get on with the story soon. (Some violence can be well-placed and germane to a story, but Nolan's is pretty extreme, gratuitous and just plain overused.) WSJ critic is impressed by the "sustained level" of violence in DKR: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303754904577530792153262270.html

Of course, people don't just go out and imitate what they see, but we ARE all desensitized simply by our exposure. The only people that just imitate what they see are 1) crazy people 2) children. And here's where it's REALLY sad. One massacre is one massacre too many, and children are now GROWING UP with the most incredible, realistic, sadistic, torture/violence/killing-not-as-sideshow-but-as-main-dish-ENTERTAINMENT. What about the ratings? Ratings be damned, we know. Kids routinely get in to grown-up films, and of course there are no restrictions on what can be viewed at home, at friends' houses, on iPads, cellphones, etc. If "it takes a village to raise a child," why does this not apply to media?

--Was the Batman PART of the League of Shadows at one time? I’m confused.

--Lots of “Inception” actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard….

--Gary Oldman plays the Commish with such dull restraint when we KNOW he can be such an outré, scary crazyman!

--Men tend to have more detached, steelier nerves than women. But it’s so scary when they use it for torture, death and destruction. Because they feel nothing. Because they can.

--Bane looks too much like Hannibal Lecter. Distracting.

--DKR doesn’t seem to have any recognizable screenplay story structure. It just goes on and on. And we love it like that.

--Love the theme of boys NEEDING real heroes.

--Cops are ordinary, everyman GOOD GUYS in DKR.

--When watching a Chris Nolan film, one must turn one’s brain to “extra sharp,” hang on for the ride and try to keep up.

--Had to turn my ears onto “extra sharp” also, to catch Bane’s Darth Vader-like voice through the contraption on his mouth. And he’s very chatty.

--Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) can relate to the Batman because he feels that “anger in his bones” masked by polite smiles….

--I swear I saw a saint statue and a saint painting in weird places in the background of non-religious settings.

--Just so you know, when The League of Shadows wants to “restore balance”?—it’s in a bad way.

--OK, the film is long, but it’s like our modern-day Gilgamesh or Odyssey or Iliad or something.

--Too little Cillian Murphy!

--Totally random having Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911”) in very serious, tiny role as doctor. Distracting. People laughing in my theater. Maybe that was the point.

--Definitely a few plot points that no make-a sense. Why is Catwoman soooo concerned about getting a “clean slate” in a near-apocalyptic world? Why does Batman trust Catwoman? But most plot points pretty darn water-holding solid.

--The “-stans” of the world are now cool: Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc.

--In this film, it sure looks like Bruce Wayne has sex with a particular woman (I’m not sayin’ who). Kinda off-handed and disappointing (although treated discreetly). Shouldn’t it at least have been a bigger deal? See this interesting  blog post about celibacy and superheroes:  (My understanding has always been that most superheroes are celibate. But I'm no comic book expert.) http://saintsuperman.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/love-and-celibacy-among-the-super-powered/
To those who say: But Bruce Wayne isn’t the Batman, I say: Yes he is.

--Why do I love the Batman? Good clean dark gothic brooding gravelly-voiced fun. But I wish the body count was waaaaaay less.


--“I still believe in the Batman.” –Officer Blake

--“What if the Batman doesn’t exist any more?”  –Bruce Wayne

--Catwoman: “I was warned about getting in cars with strange men.” Batman (VOICE): “This isn’t a car.”

--“Maybe we should stop trying to outsmart the truth and let the truth have its way.” –Alfred

--“I am Gotham’s reckoning. I am necessary evil.” –Bane

--“The point was, the Batman could be anyone.” –Bruce Wayne

--“You wear a mask, not for yourself, but to protect those you love.” –Batman

--Catwoman: “These guys are not your average brawlers.” Batman (VOICE): “Neither am I.”

--“Fear is why you fail.” –prison doctor in The Pit

--“It only gets fixed from inside the city.” –The Commissioner

--Batman (VOICE): “Don’t thank me yet.”

--Catwoman: “You’ve given these people everything.” Batman (VOICE): “Not everything. Not yet.”

*As far as posing intricate moral dilemmas/rules/principles for characters to deal with.

Interesting link on the extreme, new kind of violence introduced in "The Dark Knight" (second film):

July 3, 2012


THIS JUST IN! Channing Tatum said he hated his time as a stripper (in real life)--
felt like "a fool": http://movies.uk.msn.com/news/channing-tatum-i-hated-stripping


“What??! A nun went to see ‘Magic Mike’?” No, she did not. This is a historic review. This is the VERY FIRST TIME I am reviewing a movie that I have not seen. “Well, then, how can you possible review it?” I am reviewing the CONCEPT of the film and the FACT that the film exists (also historical). I have watched the trailer, read quite a few reviews and listened to the online chatter.

I read in "Entertainment Weekly" that when Channing Tatum was teaching a co-star how to do a routine (and trying to get him over his initial [NATURAL!] reluctance/hesitancy), he said: "Grind your junk in her face." Alrighty, then! That's all I need to know. I know the INTENTION of the film, how it's constructed, and what it's going to show me. No thanks. Porn (soft or otherwise) is DESIGNED for one thing and one thing only: illicit titillation (that's 5 i's, 4 l's, 4 t's).

I did not think I would have to write this non-review. I thought someone else was gonna. But the Catholic/Christian BlogoTwitteroFacebookoNewsosphere was silent. And nature abhors a vacuum. Basically the feedback I got on this movie—in general—was light-hearted, giggly positivity, and serious, laudatory reviews.

Although the plot (SPOILER ALERT!) is that "Mike" eventually gets out of stripping--um, is THAT why people are going to see this movie? Is THAT why this film was made? So audiences can learn a lesson about getting out of the stripping industry?

I read some time ago that Channing Tatum had been a male stripper in real life (I guess he couldn’t have been a “female stripper”—but NOTICE HOW WE HAVE TO MAKE THAT DISTINCTION: because male strippers are NEW and UNNATURAL.)  I am not saying that female stripping is “natural” (and it’s certainly not “good”), only that the way men and women approach sex (and each other) is DIFFERENT. (Read on.)


Chippendales & admirers
New? Chippendales were established in 1979. Geez, why did it take so long? Because the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s ushered in the fallacy that men and women are EXACTLY THE SAME. Women can objectify men now, too! Wow—what progress!

The Sexual Revolution told women that they can now “have sex like a man.” Because, you see, the male paradigm is the only good paradigm! Feminists, in wanting to be just like men, “have what men have,” unwittingly labeled women’s ways as inferior, and set about obliterating the feminine. But it gets worse. Women imitated BAD MEN. (If we wanted to be men, at least we could have imitated good men.) We imitated men who were cads, tools, players—promiscuously using/abusing women. But we turned the tables and did it to men, doing extreme violence to everything feminine in us, shutting off all our feminine voices and instincts and wisdom. 


Women are the fairer sex.  Women are the most beautiful thing that God ever created (the “crown of Creation”). In the sexual act, men initiate the gift of love and life, and women receive it and return it in love. This is not inconsequential. The body is not inconsequential. This “fact of the act” carries over into the male/female difference socially, spiritually, psychologically. We now have plenty of science to corroborate this. It's not natural for men to exhibit themselves in a sexual way as the "prize" to be gained.

Men’s temptation is to lust after women, and women’s temptation is to want to/let themselves be lusted after. “The mission of every man is the dignity of every woman. The mission of every woman is the integrity of every man.” Does this mean that women never lust after men and men’s bodies? Nope. Otherwise—from the Judaeo-Christian perspective—Eve would have been the only one to put clothes on after The Fall. Obviously SHE was not looking properly at Adam, either, and thus caused the sense of protective shame in Adam. (Lust is looking/desiring a person not as a person but as a thing for one’s own selfish gratification.)


Men’s sexuality is external to their bodies. This means something. Men are all about externality, and learn to “be a man” through various external benchmarks in their lives and through mentoring by 1) a father or father-figure 2) buddies and 3) their beloved (woman). Men’s brains compartmentalize. Men use the two sides of their brains alternately, not at the same time. Men are visually wired to be sexually stimulated first by the physical.

Women’s sexuality is internal to their bodies. This means something. Women are all about internality, and know instinctively what it means to be a woman. Women’s brains are integrated. The two sides of our brains are constantly communicating. Women are born multi-taskers. Women emphasize the emotional in a relationship, and are wired to be sexually stimulated first by the emotional. (Hooking-up is THE most unnatural thing in the world for women, who automatically/naturally evaluate a man’s character over time before they are comfortable enough to let their guard down.)

Women—who are the Keepers of Life—and as John Paul II says are “specially entrusted with the new person [i.e.,babies],” naturally see the whole person, and not just body parts, and are interested in a holistic relationship, not just a physical experience.

It is said that men simply fantasize about beautiful bodies, while women fantasize about men they know.


Caution: Harvey has no problem
with sex before marriage.
Of course. It just doesn’t happen as easily as it does for men. Unless, of course, we train ourselves that way, make a habit of it. I’m always surprised by the surprise men express over the fact that more and more women are using porn (and, of course, becoming addicted to it). Perhaps men are surprised because 1) they know that women are naturally more sexually integrated—because we’re wired that way 2) they are counting on women to give them/lead them in good examples of chastity (NOT double standard stuff, but genuinely “civilizing” them). Highly recommended reading: the very end of Steve Harvey’s book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” (about how men might seem to fight it, but they really do want women to “civilize” them—this is not saying that they’re brutes, but…well, just read it.)

I was recently with some extraordinary young adults—men and women--who are in Catholic evangelization ministry. Here’s what the men had to say about the women: “They change us, just by being around them.” WOW. And the way these men looked at these women was unlike anything I had ever seen. Purely. With longing. With admiration. Seeing the whole person. WOW.


“Chastity” does not mean “celibacy.”

Celibacy=abstaining from sexual activity.

Chastity=the integration of body and soul. Chastity=integrity of body and soul. Chastity=purity of body and soul according to our state/vocation in life. So married couples practice chastity also.

Purity=seeing the image/glory of God in the human body and treating it accordingly.

There is such a thing also as “emotional chastity” which women in particular need. Women fantasize in order to get an emotional high, but we often create incredible worlds of drama and unrealistic expectations that dribble into and disrupt our actual lives. And sins can be committed interiorly, as well!


“If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” –Jesus (Matthew 5:28). Of course His words apply to women lusting after men, as well. SAY WHAT??? You mean we can sin inside? Interiorly? Without actually carrying out an action? Oh yes. Jesus was verrrrry clear about that. Our inner world is REAL. God sees everything inside of us. Our thoughts are real behaviors, real interior actions. “The things that come out of the mouth proceed from the heart, and it is this that defiles a man.” –Jesus (Matthew 15:18). “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” –Jesus (Mark 7:21).

People say that “Jesus didn’t say much about sex.” Yeah, but what he said was REVOLUTIONARY: so revolutionary that we’ve chosen to just ignore it!

Trashy romance novels are called “women’s porn.” Why? Because, again, women emphasize/enjoy the narrative, the dialogue, the story, the emotional interplay that goes along with sex. It’s just as damaging and addictive for women as visual porn is for men. Perhaps erotica like “50 Shades of Grey” can help married women “loosen up” to enjoy sex more with their husbands, but what is happening in the very act of reading the book(s)? A friend of mine, a woman involved in S&m (lowercase “m”) for many years, firmly believes that the fascination with S&m today is because women are not living their feminine receptivity, but are behaving like men even in the sexual realm, and so the missing “receptivity” is coming out in this form.


The Bible and the Theology of the Body tell us that we (the bodies that we ARE) are in a spousal relationship with the Lord.

“For your Maker has become your husband” (Isaiah 54:5).

"I will espouse you to me forever; I will espouse you in right and justice, in love and in mercy. I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord" (Hosea 2:19).

“The body is not for immorality, but FOR the Lord; and the Lord is FOR the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13).

“You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

And our bodies ARE us, they are not something outside of ourselves that we can use as we please. What we do with our bodies we do with our souls, what we do with our souls we do with our bodies. It cannot be otherwise because we are one person, not a soul/body split. I do not HAVE a body (like a disembodied self that “has” a body-possession-thing), I AM a body. The human person=body and soul, together forever.

And this ain’t to scare anyone, it’s just a fact: BECAUSE we are ONE person, body and soul, a unity in duality, our body will share in glory or dishonor in eternity. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” –Jesus (John 5:28-29)

As Christopher West (“Mr. TOB”) is fond of saying, there is, of course, an obvious horizontal dimension to “the spousal meaning of the body.” A man’s body makes no sense without a woman’s body and vice versa. Therefore, by design, we are made FOR another. We are called to make a “sincere gift of self” (Vatican II’s “Gaudium et Spes,” 24).  Whether or not we are married, men and women must collaborate and harmonize our differences. “The future of civilization depends on what he will be for her and what she will be for him” (John Paul II).


The way men and women are FOR each other, the way they GIVE to each other is DIFFERENT. Men, like Jesus, lay down their lives for their bride, as Jesus did for His Church. The masculine becomes a victim for the feminine. “This is my Body, given up for you.” The gift is total, whole-hearted. The Eucharist is true nourishment for body and soul. The “gift” of “Magic Mike” is not a true gift. It is not a “sincere” gift of self. It requires no sacrifice. There is no nourishment given. It is anti-fruitful. It is withholding. It is not real. It is a tease. It doesn’t satisfy, but only torments and frustrates. It is empty calories. It is a chimera. It is toxic. It is poison.


All the MORE reason you shouldn’t go see “Magic Mike”! You’re not only cheating on God, you’re cheating on your hubby! And, guess what. Nobody can “handle it.” Nobody is so jaded that they can tell their minds and bodies not to be effected by erotic images. It’s NOT mind over matter. We’re not wired that way. And it’s not a sign of “maturity” to go to films like “Magic Mike.” Maturity means responsibility. “Magic Mike” is nothing if not irresponsible. Unless you have a serious medical problem where your libido is incredibly depressed, your body WILL react to the images presented. Not cool. Your body-person belongs to God, and your hubby.

Because we do not understand that our interior lives matter so greatly, and that everything “proceeds” forth from our interior life, I’m afraid we do not cultivate our inner life, we are not careful to protect our inner life, our imaginations, our hearts. Our entitled, narcissistic society tells us to “go for it”! Go for EVERYTHING we “feel.” To deny any impulse would be to warp and repress ourselves. Even as a nun, who has so many helps to “the spiritual life,” I inadvertently had this kind attitude about a lot of things until I read this amazing blog post by a “recovering lesbian.” To sum up, she talks about the impulses she has to cruise lesbian bars when she’s traveling on business. She says, basically that she has decided that she will “SHUT DOWN EMOTIONALLY AND PHYSICALLY IF I HAVE TO, because I will not be part of causing Him pain who endured so much for me.”


Wow. Her post literally changed my life. Eventually, we should become more in control of ourselves, have more self-mastery than to have to revert to emergency “shut-downs.” But still: if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. FOR Him. For those we are vowed to. For ourselves.

What else is an “occasion of sin” if not going to a movie like “Magic Mike”? What are our bodies doing, ladies, as we sit there drinking in the gyrating, semi-clothed images of gorgeous, buff male bodies? Is it not a form of masturbation?


If love between a man and a woman is the most natural and basic way to grow as a person, to grow spiritually, to get to heaven, then I need it in my life somehow!

Ah! We have caught Satan in one of his subtlest lies. Gotcha! If the above subtitle is true, than nuns and priests (and singles) even MORE than married couples should run to see “Magic Mike”! Of course, let’s also remember that “Magic Mike” is presenting the body/sex in a totally hedonistic, consumeristic way, so…what constructive lesson would ANYONE learn from it? But let’s just go with this little whisper from the Enemy for now.

We must remember that all human love is modeled on Divine Love (not the other way around). When Jesus showed up looking like us, He was not made in our image: we were made in His image. Yeah. Think about it! Mind-blowing, isn't it?

Us celibates? We go directly to the Source of ALL love. To Love Itself/Himself. Yes, we are “missing out” on the most glorious plan of God for those called to marriage (and John Paul II says that celibates need to really grasp the greatness of what they do NOT have), but—unless marriage is in our future--God alone is more than enough. Celibacy (temporary or permanent) is a great test of our faith, hope and love, and God will not leave us hanging us out to dry.

As one of my seminarian friends says: "My celibacy is for others. I get up in the morning for others." There is great joy in living for others.

"Joyous celibacy with you [the pope], like Christ, for the Church"

“We celibates should be loving more every day! We are not to let our hearts dry up! We are to love more and more!” –Blessed James Alberione (Founder of the Pauline Family) www.MediaApostle.com

As Christopher West says, we are so hungry for information about the body! REAL information. Theological, mystical information, God’s story about the human body! If human beings have the capacity for God (which we do), and our bodies can receive God’s Body (Eucharist), then we interface with God! We interface with the Infinite! We have the capacity for the Infinite! And now we have the food we want not only in the Eucharist, but in the boundless Theology of the Body! Eat up! John Paul II cracked the physical AND metaphysical code of love and life. He mapped the human/divine love genome. He found the Higgs Boson “God particle” of humanity. OK, enough with the pathetic scientific metaphors.


I think it’s because we are so out of touch with our feminine bodies, our feminine souls, and are doing violence to them and trying to imitate men to be happy. Or we’re trying to be men AND women at the same time. It’s exhausting and impossible. I bought into the “be a better man than the men” feminist rhetoric a long time ago and have spent years extricating myself from it and trying to hear my “irrational, illogical, weak, inferior, sentimental” feminine voices/instincts. And you know what? They are none of these things! Just different! And it has been SUCH a relief to hear them and follow their bidding!

And furthermore! Ladies—if you are really honest, really in touch with your deep-down femininity, you will see that you are so needy. And it’s OK to be needy! You need so much love and affirmation and attention because God made us that way. So you MUST go to HIM first and let HIM tell you how much HE loves you and how beautiful you are to HIM because God’s love is the best and HIS love never changes. THEN go to your earthling guy.


How do you get started reclaiming your true femininity? Listen to your body. Listen to yourself. Listen to God and the Mother of God. Trust your body, trust yourself, trust God and Our Lady. Hang out with other women who listen to their bodies, themselves. The feminists were so right to name their groundbreaking book “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” They GOT that they are all one thing!

I know this will sound strange, but read John Paul II’s “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women.” He’s drawing on millennia of theology, biblical studies and common sense. Helped me. And he is ardently defending THE RIGHT OF WOMEN TO BE WOMEN. Everywhere in society. AS women.


But isn’t the naked human body beautiful? Why can’t we look at it and appreciate it? You're right! The human body is sooooo beautiful that it should only be seen by one other person (in an erotic context) who is  committed to you for life—to love you for life. To reveal one’s body is to “give” it. To look at it is to “receive” it. Or rather to give and receive the WHOLE PERSON. Why do young people commit suicide when their sexting goes viral? Because their very “selves” have been “given” to the whole world against their will!

Works of classical art, instead, “lead the viewer through the body to the whole personal mystery of man. In contact with such works, we do not feel pushed by their content toward ‘looking with lust,’…in some way we learn the spousal meaning of the body, which corresponds to…’purity of heart.’” –John Paul II
For more about the difference between art (nudes) and porn, see John Paul II’s Theology of the Body #60-63 and this awesome article about ceiling of Sistine Chapel (or, as Justin Bieber says, “The Sixteenth Chapel”): http://www.kofc.org/un/en/columbia/detail/2011_11_sistine.html

Also, Fr. Thomas Loya’s excellent: “The Interior Gaze: Remedy for Lust and Porno-vision” http://www.ofwcmedia.com/fr-thomas-loya/1154-the-interior-gaze-a-remedy-for-qpornovisionq-and-lust-dvd-fr-thomas-loya.html

“There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect.” –G.K. Chesterton


We’ve already established that it’s soft porn, it’s a form of “adultery” (even if you’re single, because you are in a spousal relationship with the Lord), but if that’s not convincing enough, this was a Twitter convo about "Magic Mike":


When I first heard this movie was coming out, my heart sank. A new low for the mainstreaming of soft porn. Channing Tatum, besides being an incredibly talented actor (I was totally impressed when I saw him in “She’s the Man,” and just continue to be impressed with all his roles)--has a huge teen/young adult following. And of course, they’ll all be watching “Magic Mike.” “Magic Mike” further legitimizes and normalizes (male) stripping, exhibitionism, public nudity, hypersexuality, depersonalization, anonymity, separating sex and love, separating love and life, everyone belongs to everyone, the body as plaything.


Sleeping around while I’m is young is not: “Getting it out of my system!” “You’re only young once!” “Just having a little fun!” It is training for the opposite of marriage. (Or as one young person said: “Sex before marriage is sleeping with someone else’s future spouse.”) If I want to be a soccer player, why would I go to basketball camp? Even right up to the wedding we have this custom of strippers at bachelor parties and now male strippers at bachelorette parties. Really?? So the wedding day will be a magic wand to suddenly make me faithful to just one person? It will erase my STDs, and the memory of all my other sexual partners, sexual escapades, etc., and I won’t even want them anymore? Marriage in this scenario sounds like the proverbial ball and chain. What a drag! No more fun! Instead of training for true love and true sex, our culture is busy preparing for the “opposite of marriage”: infidelity and divorce. We need to be in training for true love and true sex! “Nothing like the real thing, baby….” Totally worth not just "waiting" for, but "being in training" and "preparing" for.

Sex (of whatever kind) outside marriage is ADDICTIVE. Sex within marriage is BONDING.


--Why is a nun always talking about sex? 1) Because sex is the “signs of the times” and we had better darn well be talking about it. Our silence is destructive and damaging (especially for our young people) like a grave sin of omission.  2) There is nothing dirty/bad/naughty about sex-as-God-intended-it. 3) Blessed John Paul II the Great led the way with his “Love and Responsibility” and “Theology of the Body.” 4) Theology of the Body IS the New Evangelization AND the New Catechesis. It is method and content.

"Sometimes we feel guilty because we are."

--Why is a nun always* talking about sin? Because sin is real. And it’s bad. And it hurts us. And it’s mean. As “Sister” from Late Nite Catechism sez: “Sometimes we feel guilty because we are.” Guilt is good! It’s an indicator that something is wrong! And then we can do something about it! Yay, guilt! Just like we get aches and pain as symptoms that something is wrong in our bodies. But of course we need a healthy conscience, not a lax or scrupulous one. That’s why we need “formation of conscience.”

--Something that helps me look away immediately when porn pops up on my computer, or when I’m tempted to “use” others’ bodies in whatever way for my own selfish gratification is this: I REFUSE to do that to the dignity of another human being. Or my own.

--When I talk to teens about Theology of the Body, I play devil’s advocate and say: “As long as I WANT my body to be used, as long as we MUTUALLY AGREE to use each other’s bodies, it’s OK, right? Or, if a prostitute or porn star gets PAID and they’re OK with their bodies being used, it’s OK, right? As long as we AGREE, WANT, CONSENT, then everything’s OK, right?” They really, really struggle with trying to answer this because today’s mantra is: “As long as I CHOOSE it, anything goes.” They have no concept that some things are just wrong in themselves and it doesn’t matter how we FEEL about them, or what we CHOOSE in regard to them—they’ll always be wrong.

“If selling yourself is as much fun as this movie makes it look, what could be wrong with it? The answer is that once you’ve sold yourself, losing yourself may not be far behind.” –Owen Gleiberman, movie reviewer for “Entertainment Weekly”

--I tell the teens: “We give other people their dignity even when they don’t want it. Even when they WANT to be used for whatever reason: money, pleasure, or because they don’t know they have dignity.”

--Who are the “sexiest” men alive? Family men. They are hidden deep within families. They are men who love their wives and children fundamentally, freely, fully, faithfully and fruitfully. They are the kind of men that women (who are truly in touch with their femininity) want. Why do you think women bemoan: “All the good ones are taken”?

There’s nothing more beautiful than when I look out the window on a Saturday morning and see a Dad with his little boys all in Cubs’ gear at the bus stop heading to a game. Kind of breathtaking. And what about those Dads who ACTUALLY SET FOOT IN THE AMERICAN GIRL DOLL STORE with their little princesses? Huh, huh?

--“The language of Christianity is the Body.” –@AndreasWidmer (former Swiss Guard who wrote the book “The Pope and the CEO”)

--Bodies R Us

*Actually, I hardly ever use the word “sin.” Go ahead. Search this blog. You’ll see. :]

Pls, pls, pls! Everyone read. About what porn does to women who use it. "What I wish I knew BEFORE I started using porn"  (from Lauren Nicole Dubinsky @laurendubinsky--Hollywood insider)

MUST READ: "A Virgin Explains Sex" (not me: some 26-year-old chick in Tampa Bay [who have an excellent NHL hockey team, BTW]) http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/why-im-still-a-virgin-at-age-26/1236657

July 2, 2012


WARNING! This  is more of an analysis than a review, so there are LOTS of SPOILERS!

I find “Brave” to be a subversive and kind of shocking movie.

First, what I LIKE about the film: the artistry/special effects are, of course, amazing. I laughed my head off at ALL the Scotsmen fighting scenes (with mandatory bagpipers accompanying each time), BUT, side note: name a man that is NOT a buffoon in this film.

I love that the protagonist is a spunky and talented young woman who doesn’t want to be married off in an arranged, political marriage in order to keep the peace. The three young men in question are certainly not her equal, either.

I love that it’s a mother/daughter film—so rare! We are very aware of the tenor of father/child problems and there are plenty of these stories. Mother/child problems are more subtle and complex, especially between mothers and daughters. Bad Mommy, “Mommy Dearest” type FILMS are anything but subtle, but rather over the top. I just did a Masters project on the history of women in film, and there is a whole tradition of “Evil Woman,” “Momism,” films spawned in part by a popular collection of essays by Philip Wylie in 1942 called “A Generation of Vipers.” Although Queen Elinor (voiced elegantly by Emma Thomas) isn’t portrayed as the epitome of evil, she is very harshly “punished” as though she were.

THE PLOT: Merida’s parents (we see more of her mother training her to be a princess than her father’s influence—the father seems to defer to the mother in what concerns Merida) are trying to arrange her betrothal to one of the sons of three other clans’ chieftans. This must be done to keep peace among the formerly-at-odds clans. The young man will win her hand in marriage through “games” of physical prowess.

I was totally buying into “Brave” until Merida visits a witch and asks her to cast a spell to: “Change my mother.” Not “change my mother’s mind,” but “change my mother.”  I think all of us can relate to some kind of rebellion or at least extreme “wishes” regarding our parents when we were teens, but wouldja go to a witch? If we are going to chock all of Merida’s extreme actions up to her simply being a teen, then maybe we shouldn’t have teens as main characters in stories because they are not capable of mature, responsible actions—something utterly germane to filmic storytelling (Hollywood does not do  Aesop’s Fables, or short, cautionary tales for children). Do other child/teen main characters in films get this pass (“Harry Potter,” “Twilight,” “Hunger Games,” even “Wimpy Kid”)? No, they don’t. And while Merida’s impetuous actions may actually be truer-to-life than our sober young characters in these other films, all she is doing is making a bigger and bigger mess (from which she seems to learn very little except that her Mom always loved her).


When the spell goes awry and Queen Elinor becomes a BEAR on the outside (with the threat of turning into a real bear forever on the outside and “inside”—which we see her slipping into once in a while), I spent the rest of the movie HORRIFIED. Queen Elinor, of course, shared my horror. Merida? Meh. With repeated “it’s not my faults,” she barely seems to even care. But even before her mother becomes a bear, Queen Elinor eats a bit of cake with the witch’s potion in it and becomes extremely ill. Merida—that selfish, spoiled brat of a bad daughter*—shows exactly zero concern for her mother’s welfare and asks her insistently: “Do you feel any different about the marriage NOW?” At this point, Merida might as well be a demon-child.


I am NO expert at this type of literature, but from what I’ve read shape-shifters can either be in charge of their OWN shape-shifting or their shape-shifting is “controlled” by others. Speaking of which, didn’t Merida do to her mother EXACTLY (but much WORSE) what she didn’t want done to herself? Someone else controlling her destiny?

I used to read this kind of fairytale when I was a kid. I remember something about a princess turning into a swan or something, but it was only during the day and then at night she was a princess again. These animal-shape-shifting seemed to be of shorter duration (for Mother Bear it was a huge portion of the film).

There is something fundamentally horrifying about humans morphing into animals. I remember being traumatized as a child watching Pinocchio grow donkey ears! Others have shared with me the same take-home terror they felt at this, too! So, parents, if you’re thinking of taking your kids, you may wanna process this with them afterwards AND, certainly, process how Merida treated her mother (D-I-S-R-E-S-P-E-C-T). Me? If I was screening it beforehand for my kids? Wouldn’t take ‘em.

Native Americans, who live so close to nature and whose native religions were animist religions, tried to imitate the various gifts and strengths of various animals. This is something quite different.


Queen Elinor—you can imagine, even if you haven’t seen the film—is thoroughly HUMILIATED. I felt horribly humiliated FOR her. Of course, she feels like she’s naked and keeps trying to cover herself, but Daughter Dearest tells her in an exasperated voice: “Mother, you’re not naked, you’re covered in fur.” As a matter of fact, Daughter Dearest is exasperated with her mother the whole time. (Her mother can no longer talk, but only make bear noises.) She has to teach her stupid mother how to fish for her meal. We are supposed to feel this is a wonderful bonding section of the movie where the outdoorsy Merida introduces her refined mother to HER world. But it’s gross! It’s hideous! Her mother is wolfing down LIVE fish! Her mother is awkwardly bumbling and stumbling about in her new, huge, bulbous body. But in spite of her utter humiliation, she does not become angry at Merida or even berate her.

“Brave” smacks of revenge fantasy. Merida’s mother “never listened” to her daughter,” and now she is mute. This poised and ladylike royal now has to live quite literally like a wild beast.

Although Merida had to undergo intense princess training from her mother, she wasn’t exactly “tamable” or “containable” as she races off on her horse, Angus, to practice her archery and frolic in the forest. Merida’s parents never actually curtail her athletic pursuits. They are GOOD, NOT UNREASONABLE, loving parents who are simply following the status quo—for very good reasons. And Merida’s father—a wild man himself—is rather indulgent towards his chip-off-the-old-block daughter.


Is Merida really “brave”? How? She’s energetic, she has a zest for life, but she’s self-indulgent, not brave. Is bravery and being strong-willed the same thing? Sure, she undertakes getting her mother changed back to a human. Um, that’s the LEAST she could do! But is she brave in doing it? Not really. She continues her brazen, reckless actions and even blows up the witch’s workshop in the process. She is not the one who kills the ferocious bear who is about to kill her mother.

Young people CAN change things. When they get older. When THEY wear the crown. Don’t we need to earn that right? Don’t we need some life experience? Don’t we need to actually test out what our parents say to see if it isn’t a better, wiser way? I sarcastically tweeted: “BRAVE—We might as well let young people rule the world because they’re always right.” Isn’t this the message in too many films these days?

It’s hard to exactly place a theme for the film, but it seems to be: being in control of one’s own “fate” or “destiny,” no matter what the will-o-the-wisps, witches, legends, traditions, or one’s own family says. (But of course, you can resort to magic when you really, really want something.) Speaking of magic, the quasi-evil witch actually cast a PERFECT spell that worked out PERFECTLY for our main character.

“Brave” is not so much a feminist tale (or even imposing today’s feminism on the past, because I’m sure there were plenty of Meridas who refused marriage in the Middle Ages!) as it is a tradition vs. change tale. Or rather, not being afraid to find a new way of doing things. Merida doesn’t really compromise on anything though. The ending is left vague. Yeah, she’ll probably get married someday and become queen, and her mother helps her articulate this to the chieftans as “letting people decide their own fate,” or rather, the young men will have to try to “win her heart” rather than “winning her hand” via athletic challenges. (Yeah, right—that’s going to happen!) :]


A “rule”** of filmmaking is that the main character should change, go through a journey of change. What they WANT should not be exactly what they GET. They should get what they NEED, not what they WANT, or what they WANT should undergo a transformation also. Not so with our heroine: she gets EXACTLY what she asked for: “Change my mother.” Her MOTHER undergoes the major transformation. At the end, Queen Elinor no longer wears her ever-present crown (bye-bye, authority!), literally lets her tightly-bound hair down, and is suddenly the “buddy Mom,” acting like a teenager with her daughter.

True, the witch tells Merida she must “mend the bond broken by [her] pride.” Merida simply sews up a tapestry depicting her family that she slashed in her anger. And finally, finally, at the very end, when it looks like Mom will be a berry and honey gobbling ursus for all eternity, she sheds some tears and says: “I’m sorry.”

Oh yeah, Merida has a set of triplet brothers with her same flaming, curly red hair. They look to be about five years old, max, but they are hardly ever interacting with or anywhere near their mother or father and seem to lead their own little parallel lives. No one even seems to be terribly concerned about their doings, whereabouts, or safety.


Despite its pervasive “feel good,” barrel-of-laughs ambience, “Brave” fails to inspire, teach, elevate, etc. It’s the same hackneyed: “Folllow your heart!” inspirational-Facebook-quote-of-the-day-happy-talk. Bend the world to your will. Get what you want. The world is your oyster. Look out for #1. Whatever it takes. And others? Well, I’m sure they can look out for themselves.

Merida’s treatment of her mother is just awful. That’s mostly what I’m left with.


Here are some links (haven’t read ‘em!) sent to me by friends, further examining the depiction of Moms in Disney films (“Brave” is Disney/Pixar).

Here’s the WSJ review (don’t know that I agree with everything, but it gives some making-of details):

“For the first time, in "Brave," Pixar has made an animated feature with a female protagonist—a young Scottish princess, Merida, with incendiary red hair, a sweetly independent swagger, a talent for archery and a thirst for adventure. That's a good first, and long overdue, but there's another one that isn't good at all. "Brave" is the first film under Pixar's banner that teaches life lessons through insistent preachments, instead of letting dramatic events speak for themselves. The most obvious lesson for Merida is to be careful what you wish for, since one of her wishes goes horribly wrong and turns her kingdom upside down, forcing her to find the bravery that will put things right. The most important lesson for the audience is to be clear about what you expect. This is less a film in the lustrous Pixar tradition than a Disney fairy tale told with Pixar's virtuosity. As such, it's enjoyable, consistently beautiful, fairly conventional, occasionally surprising and ultimately disappointing.
The issue of expectations is unavoidable since the film's marketing campaign, like the early passages of the film itself, suggests a feminist fable of a young warrior going off to fight her own battles—thus the iconic poster image of the heroine alone in a forest, bow and arrow at the ready. For a while Merida (voiced superbly by Kelly Macdonald) does indeed struggle against constraints that threaten her freedom: tight dresses, boobish suitors, arbitrary dictates of etiquette and, worst of all, a strict mother who insists that a princess should always strive for perfection. And Merida does make a break for it, on an escape route that takes her through spectacular settings—one memorable shot finds her standing tall atop a towering rock pedestal—then plunges her into a shady green glade, where blue will o' the wisps shimmer seductively.

Suddenly, however, the saga takes a sharp turn into witchery, wishes and a magical spell—a notably confusing spell prompted by vague plotting—and "Brave" becomes a story not of a rebellious daughter but of the bonds between daughter and mother in magical circumstances. The only thing I'll note of those circumstances is that they lead to encounters of genuine tenderness, humor and complexity, as well as affecting role-reversals in which the child takes care of the parent. So what's to be said against the familiar theme of a mother and daughter establishing a new relationship on the basis of new understandings? First off, the theme is at odds with what precedes it. And the familiarity breeds dismay, for the last thing we've come to expect from a Pixar film is tried-and-true, family-friendly formulations. (The voice cast includes Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters and Robbie Coltrane.)

"Brave" was a notoriously troubled production, with a change of directors that clearly led to a change of narrative direction. (The complexity of the final credits reflects the tortuous history: directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman and co-directed by Steve Purcell, from a script written by Messrs. Andrews and Purcell, Ms. Chapman and Irene Mecchi.) That raises the question of how much this Disney-esque fable was influenced by Disney, which used to be Pixar's distributor and is now the studio's owner. There's no way to know, and it's certainly premature to panic about Pixar's fate. The studio that has given us such animated masterpieces as the "Toy Story" trilogy, "Finding Nemo" and "WALL•E" may well have a host of untold wonders in its pipeline. At the same time, though, there is reason to be concerned—not because of the failings of "Brave," which is a pleasant entertainment on its own terms, but because of the singular promise that Pixar represents in a dimming firmament of entertainment conglomerates.
*Maybe this could be classified as an “Evil Daughter” movie!
**But who needs rules? Merida doesn’t, so why should the filmmakers?