Family, femininity, movies, review

In Defense of Beauty and the Beast – Part I

Before I start writing this, I will mention as evidence against my defense, that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie of all time. If you disagree with me, you may be tempted to use this to disprove my thesis. However, keep in mind the ad hominem fallacy; do not think that you can dismiss my arguments simply by saying that I am biased. The arguments must be dealt with on their own terms.

My other disclaimer is that I am most certainly NOT a feminist. I believe in all the tenets which St. Paul taught about the submission of wives to husbands;  I even think there is evidence that in certain intellectual aspects (certainly not all aspects) woman qua woman is inferior to man qua man, and that the dominance of men in almost all fields of learning is at least partially due to a real superiority in these fields. However, I also think that man and woman are equal “in Christ Jesus”, and that any given woman may have equal or greater skill, even in those aforementioned fields, than any given man.
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Certain Criticisms of Beauty and the Beast
It is common now, among orthodox Catholics, to criticize Disney unfavorably. (The ‘unfavorably’ is not redundant; criticism is not necessarily, by its nature, negative.) I will not name names, but you know who I am talking about. Far be it from me to disagree, on the whole. There are many detestable aspects to Disney, including some of its movies. I may later mention a few of the other movies which have fallen into this category of criticism, but for now I will confine myself to the case against Beauty and the Beast
I will divide these criticisms into four parts.
1) Criticisms of its perceived anti-domesticity.
2) Criticisms of its portrayal of men.
3) Other criticisms.
1) most closely involves the character of Belle herself and her aspirations. She longs for ‘something more’ than she thinks she can find in this ‘poor provincial town’. She is bookish and dreamy; besides, she is beautiful and conceivably considers herself superior to the peasants who live around her. This shows, some argue, a contempt of what G. K. Chesterton called the ‘wildness of domesticity’. She believes she is too good for the plain life found by the other villagers, and too good to settle down to a normal married life with Gaston. That is for other poor souls who have no higher aspirations. Besides, it reaches beyond and is opposed to her proper feminine role, which is to nurture a home (for most women, anyways, whose vocation is marriage). In other words, she is a feminist.
2) is the second most serious criticism brought against Beauty and the Beast. Gaston is a macho brute, Belle’s father is an ineffectual dimwit, and the Beast is, well, a beast. There are no positive male role models in Beauty and the Beast. Gaston, who is the only young male in human form throughout the movie, is a mockery of true manhood. It is anti-male; it is emasculating; it is feminist; it breeds contempt for fatherhood in the minds of the children who watch it.
3) primarily concerns the portrayal of the enchantress. She performs an evil action (turning the boy into a beast) for the sake of a good result (his repentance). This is an example of evil means working for a good end, which is unacceptable.
It also concerns the modesty of the dress and behavior of the characters. I am sure there are some others I intended to write about, but at the moment I am unable to remember them.
Many conclude, looking at all this, that Beauty and the Beast is unsuitable for children and that they will not show it to their family – a reasonable conclusion, if it is as poisonous and anti-family as this evidence would seem to suggest.
Part II – still working on it.
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Humour, movies, thirty days

Tim Hawkins! And Day 24! And The Dark Knight!

I have just rediscovered Tim Hawkins on YouTube. If you have not heard of him, you have a treat in store for you. He’s a Christian comedian and, I believe, a homeschooler – and I can hardly describe his hilarity. Here is a personal favorite (Hey There Delilah is good too):

One movie no one would expect me to love, if they didn’t generally know that I love it, might be The Dark Knight. Some people seem to get the impression that I only like things that… well, I guess squeaky clean would be a good phrase. I think only one of my friends knows that I used to be a huge fan of hard rock (note the past tense – I don’t listen to it anymore). I have a definite liking for darkness and tragedy which surprises some people. It actually doesn’t make that much sense, if you think about it. No one is surprised when I and people like me love The Lord of the Rings, which is, in many ways, a sad and tragic book.

Now, it is also imbued with the Christian sense that there is a Purpose to things and a meaning behind events – it doesn’t dally with nihilism in the way that you could say The Dark Knight does (I would disagree, but you could make out a case). However, that doesn’t change the fact that it does not have a conventionally happy ending. Tolkien makes it very clear in his letters that Frodo failed. Nor are they terribly shocked when someone says they enjoyed Dante’s Inferno (which, by the way, should never be read without following up with the Purgatorio and the Paradiso), which is about the ultimate tragedy, for heaven’s sakes.

The Dark Knight is, of course, in a different category. It’s less violent than the Inferno, in which one may obtain graphic descriptions of human internal organs pouring out of them, but of course violence in a book is completely different than violence in a movie, and I would say TDK is violent enough to earn a hard PG-13 rating. It’s not graphic and not very bloody, either, but there’s a lot of nasty things that are more implied than seen, not to mention the “pencil trick” and a certain character’s disfigurement. In addition, it takes the Lord’s name in vain and uses other bad language.

However, the greatest distinguishing factor, in my opinion, is the portrayal of the antimorality of the Joker. He isn’t just immoral. He hates morality. He enjoys chaos. He isn’t like most people, committing evil to get some perceived good (whether that be a real good or not). Instead, he sees the chaos and horror as an end in itself. It’s truly disturbing.

More later.

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internet, movies, thirty days

Day 22: A Website

There are lots of websites I visit frequently, but one of my favorites is Decent Films (decentfilms.com). It’s a wonderful website. It is by Steven Greydanus, a Catholic film critic, and while I don’t always agree with his writing, it’s always fascinating. I highly recommend this website, where you can be informed about the negative and positive content of various movies and make an informed decision on whether to see them or not, and enjoy an engaging piece of writing in the process.

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Blog, movies

Puzzling…

My stats counter informs me that I have had a pageview each from Brazil and the Philippines recently. In fact, this is my second pageview from Brazil… and while I’m at it, a couple months ago I had a couple of referrals from YouTube, of all places! I have absolutely no idea how they accessed my blog from YouTube…

On a different note, I recently saw The Dark Knight. It definitely sparked a lot of thought, and I’m going to watch it again, this time with my dad (I first watched it last Friday with a friend) and maybe give an essay a try.

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Books, movies, Music, Regina Doman

It’s time for…

Mirfain’s END OF YEAR LISTS!!!!

First of all, I shall list the movies I saw for the first time last year, as far as I can remember. They are in no special order, unless you count the order I remember them in. I will rank them according to quality at the end. Not all of them were released last year; it so happened that I saw them last year. Note that mention of a book, movie, or CD on my blog does not indicate my wholehearted endorsement of it; certainly not for all ages. Always ask first…

1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
2. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
3. Tangled
4. Inception
5. Alice in Wonderland.
6. Toy Story 3
7. Despicable Me
8. My Neighbor Totoro
9. Ponyo
10. The Passion of Joan of Arc
11. Holiday
12. Star Wars
13. Up
14. My Fair Lady
15. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
16. The Passion of the Christ

Books:
1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. Emma – ditto
3. Persuasion – ditto
4. Northanger Abbey – ditto
5. Mansfield Park – ditto
6. The Aeneid – Virgil
7. The Shadow of the Bear – Regina Doman
8. Black as Night – ditto
9. The Midnight Dancers – ditto
10. Waking Rose – ditto
11. Alex O’Donnell and the Forty Cyberthieves – ditto
12. Eclipse of the Sun – Michael O’Brien
13. Plague Journal – ditto
14. Looking for the King – David C. Downing
15. Coraline – Neil Gaiman
16. Poetic Diction – Owen Barfield
17. Odyssey – Homer
18. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Musical recordings (purchased and/or listened for to the first time):

1. La Nua – Lunasa
2. Fit? – Old Blind Dogs
3. Se – Lunasa
4. The Kinnitty Sessions – Lunasa
5. Clannad – Clannad
6. “D” Flute Album – Kevin Crawford
7. Sweeney’s Dream – Kevin Burke
8. Korong – Kornog
9. Harvest Storm – Altan
10. The Red Crow – Altan
11. Cuilidh – Julie Fowlis
12. On Common Ground – Cillian Vallely and Kevin Crawford
13. Tripswitch – John McSherry and Donal O’Connor
14. Light on a Distant Shore – Ossian
15. Live in Japan – Vasen (this is the only non-Celtic recording on the list–it’s Swedish.)

And now for *drumroll* my top five of each!

Movies:

1. The Passion of the Christ (2004). Heartbreaking, bloody, and worth watching every Good Friday. Highly recommended, but the violence makes it highly unsuitable for children.

2. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). This is an astonishing film. The actress playing St. Joan (who happens to be my confirmation saint) is sometimes considered to have given the greatest performance, silent or not, in any film of all time.

3. Inception (2010). This is easily the best film released in 2010 that I have seen, and I saw an unusual number of films released this year (six, I believe — normally I see one or two in theaters and the rest on DVD). Plot-driven, brilliant, well-made… my caveat is that the whole premise of the film revolves around implanting an idea inside someone’s mind, an act not merely illegal but immoral. Sadly, this comes pretty close to spoiling the movie. As a work of art it is mindblowing. There’s little other objectional material. No adult content, some taking of the Lord’s name in vain, and a good bit of violence, though it’s neither graphic nor gratuitous. Indeed, there is very little blood at all.

4. My Neighbor Totoro (1988). A sweet, beautiful movie.. Here is my review of it.

5. Up (2009). I love Pixar, and this is one of their best films. It’s touching and adventurous at the same time.

Books:

1. Pride and Prejudice. I read five of Jane Austen’s six novels, and she being so overrepresented I decided to just pick one. I think the things I like best about Austen are her excellent sense of humor and brilliant character sketches. Or maybe it’s the elegant, civilized world she writes about. Maybe it’s the long, mouthfilling sentences, or maybe it’s the romance. Whatever. It’s good. As C. S. Lewis said (roughly), her books have only two faults; they’re too short and too few.

2. The Aeneid. I wonder at myself placing it over the Odyssey, but there it is. I long for the day when I can read it in Latin…

3. The Odyssey. Who could resist it? “Rosy-fingered dawn”, “goddess grey-eyed Athene”, “sacred dwelling of Circe” on the one hand, and on the other the Cyclops, the charming princess Nausicaa washing her clothes and playing ball, and the weeping Penelope.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird. I liked this book. I do not know whether it’s a great book or not, but it is certainly a good one. I recommend this book to older teenagers only. The subject matter for much of the book is somewhat mature and there is one scene in a courtroom in particular where unsuitable matters are discussed.

5. The Midnight Dancers. I really think this the best of Regina Doman’s books. It’s also the most mature in theme. I wonder if she will rise to these heights again. It’s excellent light reading imbued with some interesting philosophical themes on the way. I’m not sure if I wholeheartedly agree with the apparent conclusions drawn, however. My main objection when reading it is that “But not all girls who wear long skirts are forced to do so, neither are they devoid of any spiritual, aesthetic, or intellectual life.” Additionally, I think her rather too bold in her identification of the beautiful with the good. “His way to salvation was through beauty”, etc. Regina Doman being a practicing and orthodox Catholic, I assume she means merely that all beauty points to God as he is all Beauty as well as all Goodness and Truth, but surely it’s a bit risky to talk about beauty in such a way, even if the rest of your book makes it clear what you mean most of the time. Anyways, the truest beauty is Sanctity, a truth that is pointed out in the book, I believe.

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feasts, movies, random, seasons

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A happy New Year to all my loyal fans! And a happy feast of Mary, Mother of God!

On a more mundane note, I’ve been watching quite a lot of movies lately – for me, that is. We have it, but I don’t watch television really at all and movies not terribly often. For instance, I just recently saw:

Tangled in theaters. This was a very cute movie. I really liked it. Rapunzel was an endearing heroine, the hero was funny, the villain was fittingly wicked. On the downside: the ending was a total deus ex machina. I don’t necessarily object to those on principle, but it was pretty gratuitous. And the music was so-so, to me at least, though I enjoyed “Mother Knows Best”.

Star Wars for the first time ever. Yes, I managed to get along for 15.5 years without ever seeing it. I liked it, but I like

The Empire Strikes Back better. I haven’t finished it yet, though. We still have 30 minutes to watch (hopefully tonight) before it’s over. But before I move on, Han Solo and Princess Leia are utterly hilarious.

(okay, this was a while ago) My Neighbor Totoro. This movie is lovely. All I can say is go and watch it. It’s suitable for the whole family, saving a scene where the father of the two little girls who are the main characters prays to a tree spirit. I fast-forwarded this scene when I watched it with my siblings – it’s very short. I recommend reading this review highly.

Right now I am watching Spirited Away. I watched the first third of it last night with my sister and two friends and it is extremely interesting… though maybe not for everyone. I can’t wait to finish watching it! For more information, read this review as well.

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