What Is This? What Is This?!

Hold on… just… sorry guys, give me a second…

Ok. I’m ok. I threw up in my mouth a little, but it’s cool. I’m cool.

No I’m not, this is not cool.

Even though I’m a certified film snob, I try not to automatically hate on remakes of old properties. I actually liked the latest Godzilla, and I’m unapologetically optimistic for the new Starship Troopers (please be more like the book).

But so far every media release relating to the new Power Rangers movie has been complete and total cringe-inducing, keyboard-slamming, hate-fire fuel.

First there was the cast photo.

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Look at these guys. Are these the faces of teenagers you would trust to save the nerd getting bullied at school? Or to teach little kids how to recycle? Or to fight putties when they suddenly appear at Angel Grove Park? They look like they’re about to climb down from that rock and punch all of us in the face.

Then there was strike two — Rita Repulsa. I love Elizabeth Banks. She’s hilarious. But…

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Help me out here, Rita…

And now there’s this… this… what is this? It looks like Zordon contracted the rangers’ suits out to Tony Stark. The girls even have boob armor. Boob armor!

::sigh::

The producers have been saying that the movie is going to be about a team of “misfits”. But that was never the point. Sure, sometimes they were misfits, especially the red ranger in later seasons. But it was always more than that. The seasons of Power Rangers that had the most misfits were always the more obnoxious and frustrating ones. The better seasons deal with a wide variety of issues and conflicts, not just angst and alienation. And personally I think it’s kind of an insult to the audience and teenagers in general — NOT ALL TEENAGERS ARE ALIENATED AND ANGRY.

I myself was a pretty angsty kid, but I didn’t want to watch other angsty kids on TV. I wanted something beyond that.

And besides, the target audience for Power Rangers was always… wait for it… wait for iiiiitttttt — little kids. The rangers were not peers or analogs for their audience, they were role models. Something for them to aspire to. A group of teenagers who cared about others and worked hard to make life better. It gave kids hope. Especially kids who lived in situations where they otherwise didn’t have a happy life. Watching Power Rangers made them feel like one day they would be able to be a good person and do something good. Even if they couldn’t beat up Goldar, they could still plant a tree in the park and stand up for the kid getting bullied.

So no, I’m not buying this vision of the Rangers. I get that they’re “trying to appeal to a more mature audience,” but you have to know who that audience is, and I don’t think they have a clue.

Screenless Sunday: How I Rediscovered My Love for Reading

Love BooksOne of the hallmarks of being a geek girl is being a professed book worm. I was definitely one of those as a kid. Other than “tomboy softball player” and “expert markswoman” my identity was wrapped up in reading.

My favorite was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, then The Chronicles of Narnia, then The Lord of the Rings. When I got to college I traded fiction for apologetics. I inhaled everything I could by C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Then, for some reason, I stopped.

I got busy working, or I was more interested in playing video games or watching TV. For a while — several months, to be honest — I played Skyrim to the exclusion of all other diversions.

Eventually I became one of those people who call themselves a reader but hadn’t actually finished reading a book in years.

To add insult to injury, I was still one of those people who buy books as if I read one a week. I have a respectable library, if I do say so myself — but I haven’t read a third of the books on my shelves. “But I’m going to!” Sure you are, Kuma-chan. Sure you are.

But then something happened just before Lent this year; a friend of mine suggested something radical. He called it “Screenless Sunday.”

The idea was to ban all on-screen distractions for one day a week. No TV, no video games, no social media, no phone apps. Calling someone on the phone was ok, as was texting for the purpose of meaningful communication. But no looking up the name of that movie on IMDb. No checking Clash of Clans. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Pinterest, and absolutely no Reddit.

I’m surprised that I wasn’t skeptical, but nope — I jumped at the idea. “Yes! I’m in!” It’s one of those things that sounds like a really healthy thing to do, like eating raw kale*, but then you try it once and never do it again.

The first Screenless Sunday was just about as difficult as I imagined it would be. After church we had to consciously remind each other not to just jump on our phones for every single thing. (Remember back in the day when you didn’t have Wikipedia at your fingertips?) But it was only noon! What were we supposed to do?!

Cue my Christmas present — a Kindle Paperwhite. I had bought a Kindle version of a book called Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History (yes, I’m that kind of nerd). It was just another one of those “I am definitely going to read this” kind of books. But here I was, sitting on the couch with nothing to do.

So I started to read.

I read about the life of Russian peasants and aristocracy. I read about famines and war. I read about dictators and revolutionaries. I read about politics and tragedy and a thirst for life and culture and truth.

I loved every second of it, and my spirit felt… alive. I don’t usually feel that way after watching TV or playing video games or watching funny gifs on reddit for the 8th time in 2 hours. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those things; I still do them. But I realized what I had been missing recently. It was this.

It also made me wake up to the fact that I had not been reading my Bible. That’s a pretty standard Christian thing to say, right? “I don’t read my Bible enough.” But the truth was that I had not been reading it at all. “I’m tired, I’ll read some tomorrow.” Say that every day for a few months.

They say the Bible speaks to you, but I don’t think this is what they mean.

After a while I began to understand and articulate something I had been feeling for a long time. I had been longing. Longing for God, for the words of Jesus, for knowledge, for communication, for insight. It’s like how people crave sweets when they’re actually just dehydrated. Rediscovering reading in general has brought me to a crucial realization that I desperately needed.

I’m not trying to Jesus Juke you guys, I swear… But this feels like something valuable, and I don’t want to lose it.

As for Screenless Sunday, it’s still a thing. We’ve bailed a couple of times (as humans are wont to do with things that are good for them) but we’ve kept it going. And even when it’s not Sunday, I find myself choosing to read instead of watching TV or playing Sailor Moon Drops (sshhh). I am a reader again, and it feels awesome.

 

*Kale is not meant to be eaten raw. It is meant to be cooked with bacon (a.k.a. “the right way”).

“Midnight Special” — A Different Kind of Sci-fi

One of my favorite things about science fiction is that it can be almost anything. You got your epic space operas a la Star Trek, your brilliantly crafted horror films like Alien, low-budget cerebral indies like Primer, fun blockbusters like Back to the Future. And then there’s Midnight Special.

It’s a little difficult to even describe this movie without getting spoilery, but the gist is this: A man takes his son away from a religious cult in Texas, running from both “the Ranch” and the FBI, who all want the boy because of his special powers.

It sounds like a strained premise, but Midnight Special is a remarkably beautiful movie. Alton’s powers and their mysterious origin are really fascinating. But what makes it a good movie is the relationships between the characters. It’s not just about a magical boy — it’s about a father’s love for his son.

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The relationship between Roy (Michael Shannon) and Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is one that isn’t seen in movies or TV very often, regrettably. The main conflict isn’t between the father and son, it’s between the father and his son’s enemies.

In a way it’s very much a Christian metaphor — the father will fight for his beloved son and will do what is best for him, even when it hurts.

Curiously, Midnight Special is not what I would call a fast-paced film. It’s really subdued in tone, but dynamic in plot and action. And the performances by the main cast, especially Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton, are brilliant. Color me impressed. I am totally fans of these guys right now.

If you’re a sci fi fan, go see Midnight Special. It’s not Star Wars or a Marvel movie, and it’s not expected to get a lot of attention, which is a shame, because it deserves it.

The Prayer of St. Patrick

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

Gamer Girl? I Hate the Word

It’s frustrating when politics worms its way into one of your favorite things. One of my favorite things is playing video games. I am not a social gamer — the only MMO I play is Destiny — so I have about zero experience with a lot of the riff-raff that other gamers-who-are-women run into. And believe me, they run into it.

I am a woman, and I play video games. This fact should earn me neither respect nor derision. Gamergate, anti-Gamergate — just, ugh. I do believe that gaming journalists should be more ethical in their profession. I also believe that harassing and threatening women is straight up evil. But I don’t like being asked to play identity politics. Part of me wants to scream, “Just leave me alone and let me play Dragon Age in peace!” But the other part of me wants to see men stand up for women who are being verbally and emotionally abused just because they want to join in the adventure.

A woman is a warrior too—but in a uniquely feminine way. — John and Stasi Eldredge

A lot of this raises questions for me. Do men feel threatened by women who game? Like, are we intruding on your territory, bro? Seriously, if you’re a guy gamer who knows what the deal is, please let me know. Because as far as I’m concerned, gamers are gamers.

I personally know guy gamers who literally do not care. My best guy friend helps me find new games I might like. Another guy friend and I are playing through the Portal 2 co-op (and are totally killing it). So… yeah. I know that there are still wymyn-haters out there who are abusive and cruel. But there are also men out there who are stand-up guys.

I think part of the problem men face in all of this is that many of them don’t know how to respond to it. Some don’t see it as a big deal (it is). Some think women should be able to take it like a man (they shouldn’t). Some are afraid that if they try to interfere they’ll be labelled a White Knight or scolded with, “I don’t need a man to rescue me.” Well, which is it?! Do you want men to stand up against abuse or not?!

Personally, I do. Actually, I want two things. I want men to be brave and courageous and to stand up against abuse — not out of white-knighting (which includes an expectation of sexual payback) — but out of integrity and honor. And I want women to recognize that those men exist, stop hating, and stop emasculating. Think we can do that? Ok good.

Whew. Now that that’s over with, I’m famished. I’m going to make myself a sandwich and play some Destiny. If you want to join me, my PlayStation ID is Kumachaaan018.