Let’s Talk About “Religious Freedom”

A person in a job where the requirements suddenly change to conflict with their personal religious views decides that they will not perform a crucial part of that job. I want to know why Kim Davis was not simply fired for her adamant refusal to perform one of the basic duties of her office. In no way does this case or this situation infringe upon religious freedom. It just doesn’t, and apparently a large number of people don’t know this.

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Damn the Dress Codes

Every school year, dozens of stories just like this one (and this one, and this one) circulate news outlets and social media. They’re always the same: photos of girls, usually between 12 and 15 (though sometimes as young as five) that clearly displays the innocuous outfit that got them kicked out of class. Parents go on the record for their outrage, principals defend their decisions with the same tired rhetoric, and the moral of the story never changes:

Instead of teaching our daughters to change themselves so as not to distract the opposite sex, teach the boys not to ogle our girls.

But that’s not entirely fair. Not to our girls, and certainly not to the boys.

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#FlashbackFriday: “Repo! The Genetic Opera”: A review

For a while, I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a movie review series where I take to Netflix, find a movie that’s been out for some time, watch it and share my impressions. I think it’s an interesting experiments: what movies stand the test of time, even if that time is merely a decade? And what movies need to stay in the past? Simply browsing Netflix and finding oddball flicks to try out is a favorite pastime of mine, so I figured, why not share it with y’all?

So, for my first installment, I’m reviewing “Repo! The Genetic Opera” (2008). So, it’s only seven years old, but from what I’ve found online, it’s a very polarizing movie to begin with – what has that amount of time done to help (or hurt)?

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Finishing “Friends” as an Adult

A few weeks ago, I posted about my experience watching “Friends” for the first time more than a decade after it went off the air, and why waiting until adulthood to soak in all the awesomeness was the totally right decision. Well, that was about a third of the way through the series, and last night, I completed it.

Oooh. Myy. GAWWD.

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Romanticizing the 90s

A few years ago, when “Girl Meets World” – the revisitation of my favorite childhood show, “Boy Meets World” – got the green light, I was ecstatic. To me, it only felt fair to give today’s kids their own Cory, Shawn and Topanga to relate to, admire and ultimately grow up with. It made perfectly logical sense. I even watched a few of the first episodes to check that the tone and atmosphere of this reincarnation felt right (it totally did).

And now, with “Full House” becoming “Fuller House” for the new generation, the veil has started to lift from over my eyes.

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What I Learned About the Minimum Wage…When I Didn’t Depend on It 

I’m not an economist, nor a decent mathematician. I have the most basic understanding of how money and society work together, I’ll admit. Part of that understanding includes the assumption that the reason for having a job is to make the money necessary to live within a given society. On a basic level, that means buying food and shelter.
But here’s the thing: Most minimum wage jobs do not allow that to happen.

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Blog Moving

Hello, lovelies.

Just wanted to post a note that Chelsea Comments is moving! Both of my blogs will be consolidated to my website, chelseamwallace.com. Head on over, check it out, and be sure to bookmark it for future reading pleasure! I am working on putting together a mailing list, so if that sounds like something you’d be interested, comment below right here on WordPress so that I can gauge interest.

Thanks for all of your support!

“Maggie”: A Review

Zombies have been on everyone’s radar for the past few years. Movies and TV shows alike have delved into this genre, picking it apart and offering varied perspectives on this almost archetypal nightmare. Well, here’s another take on the zombiepocalypse.

“Maggie” is likely the quietest, calmest zombie movie on the market, though that doesn’t mean it’s slow. Our title-character Maggie, played by Abigail Breslin, has been bitten. Unlike in conventional zombie lore, however, the virus takes weeks or even months to kill a person, meaning that Maggie and other victims are left more or less alive and well until it completely takes over. As Maggie’s body begins to decay and she becomes less able to control her zombie-rific inclinations, she hangs out with friends and jokes around with her father Wade, portrayed by the amazing Arnold Schwarzenegger. They live in a secluded farmhouse with Maggie’s stepmother, who bravely plays her part in keeping Maggie happy and (relatively) safe for as long as they can, while also counseling Wade as to the smartest, best course of action for their family.

Because the virus takes so long to actually turn people, society remains fairly intact, if struggling. Hospitals still treat patients (Maggie and her father drive into the city on a regular basis for doctor appointments to monitor her progress), the police and the government are still around and trying to contain the outbreaks, basic technology like phones still work. This is a very different world than most other stories of this kind – not the disconnected, dead, hopeless landscape we’re familiar with, but still almost as isolated and dangerous.

If you’re searching for a gore-fest full of heroic zombie slaying or fights-to-the-death, this is not the movie for you. The actual bite happens pre-movie, and except for one brief scene, there are no zombie killings to speak of. What does this movie do, then?

You watch as Maggie essentially disintegrates.

She seems like any teenage girl – moody, distant, a little too-cool-for-you – until she, well, isn’t. Unnerving moments litter the movie, becoming more and more frequent as the run-time increases. We are less inside Maggie’s mind than Wade’s, as he debates what he will do when Maggie is no longer safe to be around: Will he send her to Quarantine, where the bitten are cruelly treated until they die? Will he do the deed himself? Or will he wait until it’s too late? His struggle becomes our tension as precious time slips through the shrinking hourglass of Maggie’s life. By the final moments of the film, the audience waits on bated breath, wondering if Wade will gather the courage to do “what needs to be done” before the choice is no longer his to make.

Unlike most other Schwarzenegger movies (at least the ones I’m familiar with), “Maggie” doesn’t utilize Arnold’s buff bod or badass fighting skills. This isn’t the movie where he’s going to slash his way through hordes of the undead while discovering the cure for his daughter’s ailment just in the nick of time. Wade is thoughtful, quiet, reserved. He’s wrestling with the humongous decisions being forced upon him, each option just as distasteful as the next. He’s figuring out how to give his daughter the best remaining days he can while keeping her dangerous side in check and, ultimately, not robbing her of control over her own life. I don’t envy this kind of decision.

The ending seems like one that would be easy to guess – I predicted one of two outcomes. Yet, I was surprised and completely taken off-guard by what actually happened. Somehow, in a world with hundreds of zombie stories (many of which I’ve seen many times), “Maggie” managed to completely throw me for a loop (but in a great way). When the credits rolled, I didn’t feel duped even though the ending seemed unexpected, perhaps even unprecedented. The movie slowly led me to this conclusion, even though my viewing partner and I couldn’t recognize that fact along the way. It felt refreshing.

I would definitely recommend this film if you’re in the mood for a thinker, for something more tense than terrifying.

In Defense of Game of Thrones (spoiler warning)

I’m probably not the only viewer who felt disturbed after this week’s episode. Indeed, Sansa has been somewhat of a neutral character for me, but the episode’s final moments had me cringing and terrified on her behalf. After a few dozen “WTF?!?”s screamed out in my living room and a feverish exchange with the other viewers present, though, I felt that familiar unwillingness to wait a week for the next installment.

As I scanned Facebook for the few days following, though, I began to see the outrage that the rape scene had sparked in fans. Some even threatened to quit the show, saying the “fetishization of violence against women” had gone too far. Many even called the show trash whose only purpose was to show these moments of violence and aggression, a purpose utterly unacceptable in today’s society.

If that were the case, I’d agree. What these commenters fail to really grasp is how much more there is to this show.

This scene makes the third of its kind since the show’s beginning, and all three were (to my knowledge) outside the novels’ canon, yet another reason why many have started crying sexism. But here’s the thing: the realm of Westeros and beyond is an ugly, terrifying place. This is a gruesome, detailed story about said ugly, terrifying place. These are the sorts of things that happen in dangerous places. People are killed; people are hurt; people are raped.

None of these scenes were relished in. Every time, cameras panned away for the act, and the context made it clear that audiences were supposed to feel more uncomfortable than titillated. Especially compared to all the nude/sex scenes that are meant for some sort of enjoyment, this had to have been purposeful. Sometimes, viewers are meant to feel disoriented, unsettled, upset. These scenes served that purpose and, in each case, proved points larger than most could have guessed at the outset:

1. In the premiere when Daenerys weds Kahl Drogo, she cries as they consummate. In that moment, we ache for her and her predicament, married off by a brother who only cares about attaining power to a man who seems far too frightening to love. As the season continues, though, one of the most touching love stories of the show evolves between the two. That initial fear and distrust only underscores the closeness and intimacy of their relationship to come, which helps to emphasize the true pain that Dany feels when Drogo dies. Indeed, we can feel echoes of this pain, of the love Daenarys felt for Drogo, even into season 5.

2. Cersei and Jamie’s incestuous relationship is on display from day one. They bore three children together and, yes, their relationship proves a bit…”oogy,” but it created an interesting dynamic between the two as well as with others as the secret slowly leaks. When Jamie assaults Cersei (in season 3 or 4, I believe), it’s the first time we see Cersei not want him. It’s the first time anyone sees her as a woman who would, if even for a moment, turn down her brother. Afterward, she continues to love her brother…as a brother. While their incest is mentioned from time to time (I mean, how does something like that just disappear?), from what I can remember, they never sleep together again (please feel free to politely correct me in the comments). That moment presented a drastic change in their relationship and showed Cersei as a steady, strong (albeit kind of evil) woman capable of surviving terrible things. I’d argue she thrives.

3. Since season 5 began, we viewers have been dreading what we knew would come: the wedding of Sansa and Ramsay. He’s vile, sadistic and spiteful. She’s been through enough hardship to last a village a lifetime. This is a match made in hell. I won’t say that this scene was necessary to show how truly evil he is (did any of us have any doubt?), and I won’t say I even know what the endgame of this scene is quite yet. Maybe this will help motivate Theon/Reek to revolt; perhaps it will drive Sansa to take back her home; it could even be used as a means to show how little power so many characters have right now, and help underscore how far (I hope) they will come over the rest of the season. But I trust that this scene will, in some form and in the not-too-distant future, come to some meaning.

In addition, if someone were to tally up all the instances of violence, sexual and otherwise, against men and violence against women in this show, I’d guess that the scores would be fairly close. Theon/Reek’s mutilation obviously jumps to the mind (which, by the way, happens over several episodes, which seems far more “fetishizing” than any of the other scenes; Ramsay literally takes joy in continually getting Theon aroused and playing mind games with him before torturing and mutilating him), as does Varys’ pre-story castration as a boy. Several unnamed male characters have been pulled naked through the streets (at least once until they died), including a recent episode of a man arrested by religious fanatics and forced to parade himself through the town, whipped if he tried to cover himself or resist. If this show exclusively portrayed sexual violence against women, these critics may have had a case. As it is, just about everyone can fall victim to sexual violence of some nature.

And how anyone can say this is a show about sexual aggression toward women with some of the strongest male and female characters on television, I don’t know. You have Tyrion, who time and again shows his utter respect for women (saving Sansa from the mob early on, refusing to consummate his brief marriage with her, his attempts to beat some semblance of humanity into Joffrey). You have Ned, one of the most honorable men in fiction; Jon Snow, who takes responsibility and duty more seriously than any other and who understands what true respect of women is (shown not only in his efforts to keep his vows of celibacy, but his treatment of the Wildlings and his stepmother, who refused to return any sort of warmth). And we just can’t forget Sam, the gentlest, sweetest, most respectful and protective man on this show (and maybe all shows).

Batting for the women, there’s Arya, who deals with horrors that reach beyond the limits of what a nine-to-thirteen-year-old should be able to handle. She takes her fate into her hands, fighting for herself and taking an unknown, solitary road to the only hope of true freedom she has. Daenarys brings liberty and kindness to many lands while still able to make the tough decisions necessary to adequately rule. Cersei proves herself to be a superbly cunning, mutinous villain, one of the best and smartest in the show. Brienne absolutely embodies loyalty, bravery, honesty, chivalry and love; she never once wavers in her mission to save Sansa and Arya, wiling to risk her own safety and life in the meantime. Sansa herself started as a primped, spoiled daughter of a lord unable to deal with even the slightest of discomforts much less the real harshness of the world around her. In five years, she’s grown into a strong character who uses her brain to get by, playing on the fact that people see her as weak and dependent.

As far as deviating from the books, many fans (and even the novels’ editor) have been in an uproar since season 5 started, as the writers have taken the most “artistic liberties” here than in the history of the show. The editor tells disgruntled viewers to “read the books if they want to know the story as the author intended it.” Which makes no sense considering author George R. R. Martin is part of the writing team for the show. TV and books are inherently different with varying strengths and weaknesses. To adapt a book exactly as it is for the screen would be a huge disservice to the show. Some characters have to be prioritized, and they are portrayed beautifully, I think (see above). This necessarily means that others will get relegated to secondary – therefore less developed, less important – characters. It’s impossible to get everything from the books into the show. The Big Guy himself even said as much.

No one will ever hear me downplaying the severity of rape for men or women. Rape is, without a doubt, a reprehensible and despicable crime that requires years and years of work and strength to heal from. But fictional scenes of rape do not inherently or necessarily promote or even condone the action itself. The violence makes up the tapestry of the story, horrid as it may be.

I cannot state this enough: as abominable as rape is, the portrayal of rape does not automatically promote it. In the case of Game of Thrones, these scenes were used as plot devices, yes, but for purposes greater than those moments alone. I understand that this show – violence, despair, rape and all – may be too much for some people, and it’s definitely not to everyone’s tastes. But to people who claim this is a show about abusing women: you need to watch a bit closer.