Using Violence for Good and Evil

So I was cruising twitter at work, as I do, and I came across this excellent article by Drew McWeeny.

What happens when we find ‘The Line’ as viewers?

In it, he talks about how, as a movie reviewer, he has seen hundreds of depictions of rape, and how he finally just snapped. He’s questioning why this happens so often, and coming to the conclusion that is essentially laziness on the part of the writers/directors, in most cases. (It’s quite a good article, you should read it.)

Anyways, I sent it to my movie-buff friend, and he came back with this.

He makes a much-needed point. I haven’t seen a lot of movies that included on-screen rape – only one comes to mind, and I’m hoping it’s only that one, because otherwise something is seriously wrong with me that I’ve just gone and forgotten the others – but the same principle applies (in a lesser sense) to other depictions of extreme violence and sexuality on-screen.

And I responded;

And it goes beyond mere gratuitous violence/sex, which is the usual accusation against pointless content. It’s just sloppy. So much writing nowadays is short-hand for emotional impact. (And I’m guilty of this too.) We need the audience to feel grief– so the child dies. We need the audience to feel horrified– so we rape someone. It angers me on two counts, because a.) it’s sloppy writing (something I feel strongly about), and b.) it cheapens the actual grief, pain and violence. Which is something I feel even more strongly about.

I thought of you when I read this, because I seem to remember you saying something like that in the past. 😀

Then Zack again…

Well, I sure hope I said something like that. ‘Cause, yeah, it’s true. I think it also indirectly leads to lack of character development, because seriously, what kind of writer would be able to write a convincing, sympathetic, well-developed character and then just casually have another character rape him/her, or the like? I mean, maybe a psychopath writer, but I sure can’t imagine doing that, and I think what generally happens is that that kind of thing is used as a substitute for character development, which ties in to what you’re saying about sloppy writing. Ironically, because the audience or readers won’t be all that attached to the character being brutalized in some way, they won’t feel the affect of the act as keenly, which, yeah, cheapens the evil on display and feeds the growing prevalence of apathy towards this kind of stuff.

And at this point I asked if I could put the conversation on my blog.
And I’ve been thinking about this over the last few days, because of my reaction to certain things in books. Books about Cancer, specifically. And everyone in my internet is suddenly reading A Monster Calls and A Fault in Our Stars, both of which I’m sure are fabulous books, but ones that I am terrified of. This would be because I lost my little brother to cancer at the age of 4, and it was not a good time for me. (I’m not gonna bother to go into how bad of a time it was, because if you can’t infer it from “little brother died of cancer when he was four” then we clearly have a failure to communicate that goes beyond word choice.)
That’s not to say that stories about tragedy cannot be worthwhile. The best stories invariably DO contain a seed (or sometimes a forest) of pain. In all of my favourite books, horrible things happen, have happened, will happen, and are being dealt with. But pure content does not make a story good or bad. But pain as content is something like juggling fire. If it’s done well, it’s awesome. If it’s done badly, it is a really bad thing for everyone. I firmly believe that there is no middle ground.
And unfortunately, stories about cancer usually go down in flames; Nicolas Sparks being a prime example. Children dying is used in procedural TV shows to add a dash of pathos. The slow death of a child is used as a checkbox to elicit a brief emotional response, and then the story moves on to the important stuff– the sexual tension between leads. It worries and disgusts me.
So if I feel like that about cancer, something that touches huge swatches of the population and yet is mishandled in fiction and the media constantly, how do rape survivors feel about how often it’s used (as outlined in the article I linked to), to add some brief horror and sexiness to a film? How do domestic violent survivors feel about all the jokes about “he didn’t give me the right gift, so I’m gonna beat him up/if she doesn’t give you a sandwich give her a black eye.”
And I am not immune to this failing. It is so much easier to give a character a traumatic backstory and then never deal with it. Because yeah, I don’t want to deal with it. Pain is not fun to delve into, I’d rather add some trauma to make people edgy and badass and then have them be So Awesome™ for the rest of the story. So writing this post, and thinking about it, has made me realize that is a terrible approach to story-telling. If I want to share my stories (and I do), I have a responsibility to make sure they don’t go around throwing people’s pain in their face and telling them that it is worthless. And I do not want to do that.
P.S. Still gonna read The Fault In Our Stars someday. Just maybe when I’m feeling less fragile.

Sing You Home.

I don’t know how to deal with this season. The assumption from everyone, particularly those who don’t know my history, and that segment is getting larger, as it is two year now since my little brother died, is that is his a joyful season. Only it’s really not, it’s a season of grieving.

Grieving is the strangest emotion, because it can coexist silently with the rest of my life for months. I notice if I’m particularly sad, or particularly happy or angry, but grief just steals into the background and I don’t notice until I’m ready to beat my head off of walls in desperation and fury. Because no, grief doesn’t just mean tears. At least not for me. I get angry.

This would be because my default emotion whenever I don’t agree with the way something is going is to get mad. As I am not the high queen of the world and things often do not follow my grand plan, I am mad frequently. Which means I don’t really need more anger in my life. Particularly here- it neither helps nor honours the person I’m grieving for if I am ready to attack the world at any moment.

Only I don’t know how to not be angry. It’s such a fast reaction to get into, and it’s so much safer than lying myself open to the rest of the world so they can trample on me. All well-meaningly, of course.

This month will be an exercise in trying to cool down. So far I’ve primarily failed at that, but today this song helped. And it’s lovely, even if you don’t have grief/anger problems.

Reading for a good cause.

Those of you who follow this blog might have noticed that I like to read.

Those of you who notice time stamps might have noticed that I like to stay up till all hours

So it was pretty obvious that I was going to be participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour read-a-thon.

What is Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon? For 24 hours, we read books, post to our blogs about our reading, and visit other readers’ blogs. We also participate in mini-challenges throughout the day. It happens twice a year, in April and in October.   

PARTICULARLY because I’m Canadian, and I get Canadian Thanksgiving, so that’s a three day weekend for me, so I don’t fall asleep at work the day after. 😀 Lord Willing. It could still happen. ^_^

But, I should really have a reason to give to my family for staying up for 24 hours, beyond the usual “people on the internet are doing it.” So I thought, and I decided I should raise money for a CAUSE! As one usually does with an a-thon. (I’m so clever.)

And then I had to think about what I should raise money for, which was a hard game! Only it wasn’t, because the idea that came to mind immediately was to raise money for the Candlelighters Association.

Those of you who know me might know that I’m from a family that’s been affected by Childhood Cancer. My little brother Gideon was diagnosed with a Wilms’ Tumor when he was four, and he passed away when he was five. As a result, I am rather interested in funding research into childhood cancers, and the Candlelighters Association is one of the few groups which does this.

Wait, can’t I just give to the Canadian Cancer Society? No, the Canadian Cancer Scociety does not fund research into cancers which only affect children, as that’s such a small segment of the population, and they want to get the most bang for their buck, so to speak. Wilms’ only affects children. Oh, and the Candlelighters also puts funds towards awesome things like Oncology Camps for childhood cancer survivors and children affected by childhood cancer, including siblings and bereaved siblings, which I FULLY SUPPORT. My family looks forward to Camp Delight for basically the whole year. 😀

And I’m getting off topic. But- Candlelighters are awesome, and reading is awesome, and not sleeping is awesome, and TOGETHER we can be UNSTOPPABLE. Ahem.

Now I’m looking for two things; people to read with me, and people to support me!

The Dewey read-a-thon is already an awesomely put together organization, and as long as you like reading and caffeine you’ll have a blast, I am sure. 😀 Talk to me, I will be delighted to walk you through signing up. (No you don’t have to raise money, I just want a reason to keep me going past hour 12, and this is a good one for me.)

For funding, there are several ways you could give the Candlelighters money. You could pledge to give a certain amount, (a dollar is popular, five dollars is for awesome people,) for  every hour I read. Or, as I read fast, you could pledge to give a certain amount per book read! I promise I will not resort to reading through the Franklin books if all my pledges are of that sort. (Heh.) And for option three, you could pay a certain amount ($15.00 would be a good starting point) to make me read a book and review it. As long as I can get ahold of the book and it does not offend my morals, I will read it. I might review VERY SARCASTICALLY, but yes, I will read it. 😀

There you have it! My plans for Thanksgiving weekend. Read for a good cause.

Here, have some internet!

There are lovely links which you should follow. ^_^

How trustworthy is television?

And this is the photo-blog of a lovely, talented girl who is undergoing treatment for cancer. You should all follow her. *nods* And comment on the pictures, because they’re wonderful.

"Just Get Me Through December"

My little brother died yesterday. He was four years old, and too much joy to be contained. 

And I just don’t know anything. The world is different, that’s for sure. Maybe I’ve grow up a little more, maybe I’m still in shock and denial, but I certainly don’t look at life in the same way. Life- both the living of it and the fact of morality, has taken on a different aspect. 
Because my little brother is no longer here, and everything reminds me of him in some way. He loves blue, and kinder eggs, and cars, and the whole wild world. He gives his full attention to whatever he is doing, oh my little brother. 
No, I’m not using the present tense by accident. I believe- no, I don’t believe, I know, that he’s in a better place. He has no more pain, no more uncertainty, no more tears. He’s free. And for him, we’ll see him tomorrow. We just have a longer tomorrow to get through than he does. 
His death was peaceful, and even the days and hours before were free of stress for him. I have a mental snapshot from the day before, which encapsulates the hospital time for me. Gid was sleeping, and had been all day, and I was just watching him from across the room. Snow was falling. There was only one small light on in the room, so it was getting darker as night fell. A fan caused the curtains to brush against each other, and the IV pump made small popping noises every couple of seconds. Daddy was playing acoustic guitar, and Mommy and Fraulein and I listened to him and to Gid breathing. It was an incredible span of time. There was so much sorrow and so much joy, somehow held side by side. 
The strange thing is that I really still can’t take it in. My mind keeps trying to segment my memory, saying that that wasn’t Gid, my little brother is still somewhere around here, and I’m going to poke my head around a corner and see him sleeping. It’s so strange. I’ll probably be trying to fit my head around it for quite some time. Years, most likely. 
Anyhow, that’s my big news. And if you thought my sense of humour was dark and twisted before, you might want to avoid me from now on. 
Note: I’ve been trying to write this for a little while. Please ignore the continuity error. 

"Come on, come on, put your hand into the fire. Explain, explain…"

Due to my rather sad incoherence lately, which makes me cringe to think of, I shall try very hard to make this post contain something resembling logic. “Try” being the operative word, I am afraid. 

I commence!
I am currently wearing four shirts. Yes. Four (4). This is due to the fact that people keep giving me them. First of all, Fraulein gave me two lovely ones yesterday, designed to be layered. Therefore I decided to wear them today along with the charming brown pants Gid picked out for me. Mommy said he first found a short, printed bright green housecoat. She steered him away from that, whereupon he gravitated to a low cut pink and white striped shirt. (He is four, after all). Mommy disentangled him from that one, where he found these pants. Which are a signal success, actually. (They are soft and have cool buttons, hence his choice of them.) So I was wearing my new outfit today, when I was given a free t-shirt to wear to the Relay for Life. As it wasn’t hot out, I just put the shirt on over top of my current wardrobe. One ill-fitting t-shirt over regular clothes= One volunteer uniform. Fraulein and I, in appropriate volunteer garb, were helping out with children’s activities. This was made extra interesting by the fact that we were working with groups of mixed ages and sexes. I tell you, anyone who says that there is no significant difference between girls and boys is seriously deluded. Possibly on drugs. Fraulein and I, used to working with little girls, unwisely let one of the boys be “Simon” in Simon Says. As our first game. The first thing the little dervish said? 

“Simon says Armpit Fart!”

Right. Um, some people don’t know how to do that. So why don’t you try another one? He ponder this, and then comes up with a different command. 

“Simon says run up the ramp and come back and hit me in the face!”

Takes “cruin’ for a bruisin’” to a new level, eh? By the way, I’m not honouring the child with the appellation “dervish” based solely on the Simon Says incident. There were other events. With witnesses. Anyhow, after our volunteer time was nearly over Fraulein and I were each given another t-shirt. It was even less hot then. Hence the four shirts as current outfit components. (I know I’m extra riveting today. Hush. I’m working on re-growing coherence and logic neurons.)
The birthday yesterday was lovely. Since the Relay was today, and as a result the family would be occupied most of my actual birthday day, we celebrated yesterday. We had a formal dress-up dinner. Slonner was demonstrating the twirling action of her skirt before the dinner. Mark my words, if that girl ever takes ballroom dancing she will devastate anyone within range. Totally maul the opposition, in truth. The meal was delicious, and the company was well dressed and charming. Then we opened gifts, some of which I have already mentioned. I should mention another one at this point simply because it is so very noteworthy. My parents, whom I rise up and call blessed, said that they would pay the difference in my saving and the computer I had picked out. Blessed, I tell you. 
Then we played Duck Duck Goose, as is tradition. And this time we ALL played, which was fun. There was also a scavenger hunt and musical chairs, where I, forgetting I was wearing weapons on my feet, trod rather heavily on Daddy’s foot. After a particularly hotly contested game of musical chairs Daddy was in fact forced to sit out and be the judge of the scavenger hunt. Which my team lost, even though the other team had a math CORRECTION book, instead of math book. But since I am a just and merciful birthday girl, and do not misuse my awesome power, I did not raise a big fuss about this blatant deception on the part of my nefarious siblings. Also no one was listening. 
Then Frualein and I watched Stardust in the evening. All in all, a marvelous celebration. Fraulein and I have had rather a lot of movie-watching incidents lately. I’m not going to go back and count them, since I’m lazy, but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot. We also watched a couple of episodes of Avatar this morning. That was amusing, since she has been rather politely and patiently tolerant of my delight in the show in the past. So today I sat down and said, “we’re going to watch the first episode. The beginning of it, at least. We can stop in eight minutes or so.” She is silent (implies consent! See, I did learn something from my first aid course!) and the watching commences. We get through the introduction and one half scene. She pipes up “I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop this!” *grins* NO, this is not gloating. It’s just happiness. Right. Happiness. 

Reposted from my family’s blog

My dad wrote the following. Stevie is my mom. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

13-April…….It’s been one year……

Gideon is sleeping while I write this. He has a bit of a rattle in his lungs, almost a snore. He is getting a good long sleep. It is snowing outside the Hospital window. A Spring snowfall with big flakes that float down without a wind. One year ago Gideon got down off my lap as we went to breakfast. He had been sitting on my knee while I checked my email. As my hand passed over his tummy I felt something very hard just poking out from under his ribcage. Gideon had been having trouble getting over a late Winter flu and so his breathing was a bit “rattley”. Stevie had already booked an appointment with our Family Dr. but we decided to go early and wait for the next available opening. The Dr. ordered an X-Ray. Stevie returned to the Dr late in the afternoon to hear the results of the Chest and Abdominal X-Ray. I was working in the studio mixing the song “I Feel So Happy”.

Our world changed in one moment.

We have learned the reality of “the new normal”. “Normal” changes daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes in a moment (relapse). We are learning to live “in the moment” and trying not to worry about what might happen.

We are learning that God is sovereign, He is Creator, we are created, he is Infinite, we are finite. I do not pretend to know the mind of God. I do understand this. His covenant with His people continues to be kept. He does not change, neither does He falter. In His mercy He saves and protects His own. He has no equal, and He has no opposite, His purpose cannot be thwarted. I am His child.

We have been treated to new friendships. People of compassion, and mercy. People whose careers demand high academic achievement with almost unlimited patience and compassion under, what is sometimes, a crushing emotional burden. I truly wonder how they do it. Friends from “before” have shown why they are friends. We are privileged to count these truly unique and special people as friends. Thank you all.

We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.

Thank you for sharing this year with us. “A burden shared is a burden halved. A joy shared is a joy doubled”