Assumption of the Virgin Annibale Carracci

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According to Wikipedia, Carracci was one of the founders of the Baroque style.  Baroque painters wanted their paintings to have dynamism and a sense of life and action.  I certainly sense that in the figures of the apostles.

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Wonder Woman’s Female Gaze

Scavenger’s Hoard podcast took a break from their normal Star Wars discussions to talk about Wonder Woman.  Rachael, one of the hosts, recounted her epiphany, “Ah!  This is what it is like to have the female gaze in a film!”  She refers to the portrayal of Steven Trevor bathing, implying that the camera lingers on his body, the way the camera often lingers on the bodies of women, imitating a man’s eyes on the body of a woman he desires.  They felt that the camera dwells on his body, showing Patti Jenkins’ desire for Chris Pine.

I disagree with their interpretation.  This kind of camera work can be very conspicuous.  A good example of this kind of shot was used in an episode of Breaking Bad, Salud in season 4.  The director, Michelle MacLaren (a woman) decides to start out a scene of a party for a drug cartel by having the camera follow the ass of a young woman.  (I remember in the commentary for this scene the director described it as “something fun” and that the camera guys thanked her “on behalf of straight men everywhere.”)

This is what most people think of when they think of male gaze.

(I didn’t even have to watch this clip to know this was the right scene.  All I had to do was skim through the comments to look for guys discussing the ass.  Apparently the director featured two asses because the connoisseurs were contrasting them.  But I did watch the end of the clip to make sure there were no spoilers for this episode.)

True, this kind of camera work is not always so blatant, but I did not sense the kind of slow, lingering shots over Steven Trevor’s body.  She probably could have gotten away with it in a few scenes, since Diana has never seen a man before (more on that later) but Patti does not present Chris Pine’s body as an erotic object to the audience.

Does this mean that Wonder Woman does not have female gaze?  Not at all.

Chez Lindsay has recently become one of my favorite Youtubers.  She has a wonderful series called The Whole Plate: Transformers in Film Studies, in which she analyzes the Transformers films through various lenses in film studies.  The most recent one was all about viewing Transformers through a feminist lens.  In the video, she alludes to the fact that the concept of male gaze is more complicated than simply cameras lusting after women’s bodies.  Another element of male gaze is to present men as normal and women as aberrations.  As she points out, this is nothing new.  Aristotle felt that women were deformed men.  Films tend to work within this framework.

Lindsay’s video (which you should watch) uses the Transformers robots as an example.  The cartoon on which the movies were based has had many woman robots but the writers decided not to include lady robots in the movies because their existence would have required an explanation.  Think about that.  I haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies but I read a description of key plot elements of the recent film, Transformers: The Last Knight.  In the film, we discover that the Transformers (sentient robots from another planet who transform into cars) have existed on earth since the Middle Ages.  Oh, and they killed Hitler.  As Lindsay points out, the writers have essentially decided,

“OK, the giant alien robots who transform into cars and kill Hitler is perfectly logical.  The audience will totally buy that.  But we can’t make one of the robots pink and ask Scarlett Johannson to voice it because the audience won’t accept it.  Anyway, back to the giant alien robots killing Hitler.  Because that makes sense.”

Oh, Lindsay also has a wonderful quote about critical studies.

“Critical studies is not here to shame you for what you like, much as it apparently feels that way to some people. But rather to help give us the tools to question the media we consume, and what it says about the culture that created it”

I think that we can all stand to think more critically about the media we consume.

Anyway, back to Wonder Woman.

The first ten to fifteen minutes is almost entirely filled with women.  This is the reverse of many films which are almost entirely men.  The women are not presented as objects of desire for men, but as subjects, acting of their own accord.  The film actually dwells in Thymiscera for a fair amount of time, allowing the audience to accept the normality of a society entirely made up of women.

Then, suddenly, Steven Trevor appears.

(Oh, quick aside, I keep wanting to call him Steven Tyler.)

When Diana first rescues Steven Trevor, she sees a man for the first time.  This is also the first time in a good ten to fifteen minutes that we, the audience, have seen a man.

Steven Trevor is aberrant.

When Diana says, “You are a man!” to Steven, she is also saying, “You are The Other.”

We get this sense later when Steven Trevor is questioned in the lasso of truth later by the Amazons.  He is the only man, completely surrounding by women.  The women view him with suspicion as an untrustworthy outsider.  Films often portrayed women as outsiders, but it is rare to portray a man as the outsider.

This isn’t a great clip, because it is out of order of the film that they released, but the camera angles are the same.

The film in this scene either uses wide shots or shots of Chris Pine’s head and shoulders.  Emphasizing his face, as opposed to his body, stresses Steven as a person, not as an object of erotic desire for Diana or the audience.  This is completely different than the camera’s focus in the Breaking Bad episode.

We also see this in Diana’s interaction with Steven is curiosity.  She is not embarrassed by his nakedness, nor does she look at him with desire or hostility.  Diana’s question about whether or not he is a typical representation of men is not actually meant in a sexual context (despite what Steven believes).  Diana’s gaze reveals, for lack of a better way of saying it, a sense of wonder about The Other.

That is Wonder Woman’s female gaze.

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Untitled Rooftop Hughie Lee Smith

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Hughie Lee Smith was an African American artist and a fellow Clevelander!  I took this picture myself a couple of months ago at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

 

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Shakespeare’s Game of Thrones: Cleveland Shakespeare Festival Performs Macbeth

One of the greatest points of pride in my life is that I have never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones.  And I never will.  (Well above my limits of violence.)  But I do not need to wonder what Game of Thrones would be like if Shakespeare wrote it.  That is because Shakespeare wrote Macbeth.

Cleveland Shakespeare Festival’s production is fast paced and violent, which befits the play itself.  The scene where Lady McDuff and her children are murdered was surprisingly affected.  One of the actors stomped on the baby doll representing Lady McDuff’s child and I flinched momentarily.  (More on that later.)  I also clearly saw how Macbeth’s original murder brings about a whole host of murders.  I easily lost track of how many people died in the play, but to some extent that is the point.  Macbeth is a bloody play, and as soon as Macbeth performs the initial murder, he finds that he must continuously kill.   Despite all of the action, I never felt lost in the play.

But what surprised me is how scary the play was.  The play is full of frightening images and events (witches, ghosts, sleepwalkers, potions, apparitions) and the play definitely made the most of them.  There is a scene where Lady Macbeth emerges, sleepwalking, holding a lantern, and I was struck how this is similar to an image from a horror movie.  The apparitions that appeared to Macbeth were also classic, frightening images (shadowy figures draped in black.)

The performances were excellent, but two weeks on the most memorable performance was Duncan and the Porter.  I was especially taken by the Porter.  The Porter character is a clown, and is meant to be funny, and I was struck by how funny he genuinely was.  The porter explains that drink is an equivocator of lechery, giving the desire, and taking away the performance.   As he stated”makes him stand to, and not stand to” he dangled his arm like a flaccid penis, and everyone laughed.  This is the correct response.  This scene follows the harrowing scene in which Macbeth has killed the king and his children, and the audience needs a laugh.

I want to return to the moment when the actor stomped on the baby doll and contrast it with another moment later on in the play.  Towards the end of the play, Macbeth is sword fighting another another character, and the character took a swing at Macbeth’s head.  For a split second, I thought that he collided with Macbeth’s nose.  Directors and fight coaches must take great care with fights on stage.  They must look realistic, but not too realistic.  The reason is that the audience will begin to fear for the safety of the actors instead of the characters.  That moment, for me, went too far.  I thought that the actor might have a broken nose.

 

This is different than the moment I had with the baby.  When I saw them stomp on the baby, I flinched, but quickly remembered that it was a doll and not a human baby.  Brecht would have loved that.  (For those who do not know, Bertold Brecht was a playwright who felt that it was important to remind the actors that they were watching a play, in order to have them think about what they were watching.)

The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival has one more weekend of Macbeth, I encourage you to go check it out.  This will bring an end to their 20th anniversary season of free Shakespeare outdoors all over Cleveland.  I am looking forward to the 21st season, when we will meet again, in thunder lighting, or in rain, when the hurly burly’s done, when the battle’s lost and won.

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Summer of the Shrew Part Deaux: Katherine’s Ironic Speech

The speech that Katherine gives at the end of The Taming of the Shrew has been the subject of much discussion.  Is this speech meant to be interpreted on face value, or is it ironic? Much of this is due to to the fact that her speech about wifely obedience is the longest speech in the book (one of the longest speeches in the entire canon!) and Katherine is promoting submissiveness while she commands the attention of the characters and audience.

However, there are two other ways that Katherine’s speech is ironic.

1 The idea of work in Katherine’s speech.

Katherine addresses the other women (and the audience) with the following.

Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee
And for thy maintenance; commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou li’st warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks, and true obedience–
Too little payment for so great a debt.

But here is the thing.  The women in the the story are not married to men who have committed their bodies to painful labor both by sea or land.  Petruchio has been a soldier but now he is settling down to his father’s inheritance and has enlarged it by “wiving wealthily.”  Katherine argues that obedience is a debt owed to a husband, in large part, because he works hard to secure her livelihood while she sits at home safe and passively.  But what happens when men do not commit their bodies to “to painful labor both by sea and land?”  Does lessen the debt that wives owe their husband?  Does this lessen the tribute that wives must pay to their husbands?

After Hortensio realizes that Bianca loves a lowly scholar (watching the play again I think Hortensio is more upset that she is in love with a man below her station than the fact that she is not in love with Hortensio!) he abandons his suit in favor of a “wealthy widow.”  Notice that Hortensio does not abandon his suit for a poor widow, or a random washer woman widow.  He abandons her for a wealthy widow.  Hortensio marries a widow and takes her fortune, since her fortune would have become his property.  She is not living off of his hard work; he is using her income to avoid hard work.  Does she owe her husband the tribute of love, fair looks and true obedience if her husband is also lying at home, warm, safe and secure?

This question is even more pertinent in our own age.

First of all, as to women being less intelligent than men, fuck him.  (Oh, and two can play this game.  You know how many great Polish playwrights there are?  Zero.  Therefore, Polish is a stupid language spoken by stupid people.)

But as for the point about women being weaker, does that matter any more?  During the time when people worked in the fields, toiled in masonry, or worked in steel mills, physical strength and prowess would be an asset and an advantage.  But is physical strength an advantage in accounting?  Not so much.  As work becomes less physical, the differences in strength between the sexes become less important than other competencies.  As this changes, the relationship between the sexes is also changing.

But there is actually another, more fascinating, irony in this speech, if we look at the world in which the play was written.

Katherine, a shrew, rebels against everyone in the play but at the end comes to obey her husband and accept his authority over her.

What I find fascinating is at this time, England was run by a Queen, Elizabeth I, who was unmarried.  Parliament was unhappy with the lack of an heir, and even passed a resolution calling upon the queen to marry.  She proclaimed that

“To conclude, I am already
bound unto a husband, which is the kingdom of England, and that
may suffice you. Makes me wonder that you forget, yourselves, the
pledge of this alliance which I have made with my kingdom.”

So, if England is Elizabeth I’s husband, and the wife is supposed to obey her husband, does that mean that, for Elizabeth I, England is  is her lord, her life, her keeper,
her head, her sovereign?

 

James I made a similar proclamation after uniting England and Scotland.

“What God hath
conjoined let no man separate. I am the husband. All the whole realm
is my lawful wife,”

But this analogy is far less trouble for him; the wife is supposed to obey the husband.

Elizabeth I always tried to minimize the “problem” of her sex.

I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too…”

In this instance, Elizabeth I tried to portray the people of England, her subjects, as her children.  But this arrangement would not last for her successors.  Within 40 years after her death, Charles I will be executed (to this day no sovereign enters the House of Commons.)  His son will assume the throne, but by the time the Stuart line comes to an end, the Sovereign will have no substantial power over the government.

I am not saying that Taming of the Shrew is somehow a call to revolution or regicide, or that it foretells the coming upheaval.  But The Taming of the Shrew is a play about social upheaval and social order; men and women, lords and servants.  It calls for order but undermines its own calls.  Furthermore, by tying together the social hierarchy of men and women to that of lord and servant, it makes the hierarchy even more precarious; if one falls, the other falls as well.

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Emma’s Random Reylo Thoughts Part 8: My Want’s, Rey’s Wants

This is going to be a composite post, and a long one at that.  Brace yourself.

Part 1: What I Want 

First of all, I am going to talk about my want for Rey.  In several posts, I have said that I want Rey to have a female friend.  In fact, I want Rey to have more than one female friend.

I had written in Why Wonder Woman Can’t Win Part 1 why it would be revolutionary for a character like Rey to have even one female friend.

Where is Jyn’s female friend in this picture?

Rogue One

Where is Black Widow’s female friend in this picture?

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Where is Wonder Woman’s female friend in this picture?

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My mom was recently on a bit of a Michael Moore kick, after she saw his film Where to Invade Next on Amazon Prime and insisted I watch it too.  Since I had never seen a Michael Moore film, I acquiesced.  One of the women in the film, in Iceland, talked about the law that a company’s board must have at least 40% women (or 40% men).  She describes how they discovered that one woman is a token, two is a minority, but once the board had three or more women, they started to see cultural change in the board.

I wonder if there is a similar dynamic in these kinds of films.

The filmmakers believe, perhaps rightly so, that it is mostly men who see Star Wars or super hero movies, and the women who attend only attend because of the men in their lives.  The filmmakers don’t want to be seen as sexist or misogynistic, but they also don’t want to alienate the men who make up the majority of the audience.  In order to do this, they create one woman character who is the stereotypical woman warrior.   There are a number of results of this decision.

1 Since there is only one woman, she is often portrayed as “one of the boys.”  She adapts to the cultural norms of men, rather than the men being forced to change their cultural norms.  If there was more than one woman, the men may be forced to change.

Just like this poor man.

The horror.   The horror.

2 The idea of a woman gaining equality by abstaining from sexual and romantic relationships with a man is nothing new.  Consider what St. Jerome, who lived in the 4th and 5th century, during the waning years of the Roman empire.  He wrote a letter to a man named Lucinius.  Lucinius and his wife had taken vows of continence, ie they had given up sex.  St Jerome is thrilled with this decision (of course) and he writes to Lucinius to assure of him of the blessings he shall receive.  Here is one of them.

“You have with you one who was once your partner in the flesh but is now your partner in the spirit; once your wife but now your sister; once a woman but now a man; once an inferior but now an equal. Under the same yoke as you she hastens toward the same heavenly kingdom.”

St Jerome’s Letter 71 To Lucinius

Did you catch that?  Lucinius’ wife, Theodora, has sworn off sex, and she is now the equal of a man.  She is even referred to as a man.  We see a similar dynamic in the arc of Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies.

These ideas have been around for centuries, so it actually makes sense for films to draw on them.  It is one reason why we focus on the never married Susan B. Anthony, and ignore her married and mother of seven partner in crime, Elizabeth Caddy Stanton.

It’s also why I get annoyed when people talk about how revolutionary it is to show a woman without a man in film.  “Oh, we are so revolutionary!  We have co-opted ancient Christian ideas that originated during the Roman Empire!  How original and counter-cultural we are!”  

Ha.

3  What is original in these movies is the idea of women living without the companionship of other women.  This is not how the warrior virgins/religious virgins are historically portrayed, and also how they historically lived.  Historically, most women who rejected marriage lived in communities of women.

These women were estranged from men and mostly estranged from their biological families, and encouraged to sever ties with them.  Chapter 9 of St. Teresa of Avila’s The Way of Perfection counsels her nuns to shun their blood relatives.

Oh, if we religious understood what harm we get from having so much to do with our relatives, how we should shun them!

I am astounded at the harm which intercourse with our relatives does us: I do not think anyone who had not experience of it would believe it. And how our religious Orders nowadays, or most of them, at any rate, seem to be forgetting about perfection, though all, or most, of the saints wrote about it! I do not know how much of the world we really leave when we say that we are leaving everything for God’s sake, if we do not withdraw ourselves from the chief thing of all — namely, our kinsfolk.

Still, they did not live in isolation.   St. Teresa continues.

Believe me, sisters, if you serve God as you should, you will find no better relatives than those [of His servants] whom His Majesty sends you. I know this is so, and, if you keep on as you are doing here, and realize that by doing otherwise you will be failing your true Friend and Spouse, you may be sure that you will very soon gain this freedom. Then you will be able to trust those who love you for His sake alone more than all your relatives, and they will not fail you, so that you will find parents and brothers and sisters where you had never expected to find them

 

In other words, St. Teresa is encouraging her nuns to look upon their fellow religious as their family.

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The women in these kinds of films (Sarah Connor in Terminator 2, Rey in Star Wars) are expected to reject the romantic and sexual companionship of men in order to achieve equality with men.  Nothing new, as I have said above.  What is new, in my opinion, is that they are also expected to reject the companionship of other women as well.  What is the result?

4 These result is that they create a completely unattainable standard for the women in the audience.  These women are the equals of men, but they are completely isolated from all companionship, men and women.  They are also the only women that we see in the films.  The implication is clear.  If women want to achieve equality with men, they must isolate themselves from all human relationships.  The woman’s isolation is both the cause, and effect, of their equality.

It is at this point that I must make a distinction between the reward (equality) given to these women in films and the reward (salvation) given to the women in religious communities mentioned above.

St. Jerome, a man of his time, was a great proponent of celibacy.  He believed that the unmarried would be saved more easily than the married and that they would experience greater rewards in heaven than the married. However, St. Jerome did acknowledge that married men and women could still hope to be saved.  He acknowledged this grudgingly to be sure (the man was a brilliant scholar but he had the temperament of an internet troll), but he did concede that while the unmarried were running to eternal life, the married were also limping there as well.

This is a harsh message, no doubt about it. But the message of the films is even harsher.

The message of the film is not “Women with friends or boyfriends can also have equality with men, but it will be much harder for them and they will be less equal than other women,”  which would be analogous to St. Jerome’s position.  It is clear that there is no hope for equality outside of total isolation.  This is brought home by the complete dearth of women in these films.  The women either exist in isolation, totally adapted to the rules of the boys’ club, or they don’t exist at all.  The message of the films is, “If you don’t destroy your need for human contact, you will never be the equal of a man.”

It is because of all this that I want Rey to have a couple of female friends.

1 It would establish that women do not need to be completely isolated in order to have equality with men.  Rey could be showed enjoying the company of her friends, drawing on them for support, and sharing triumphs and sorrow with them.  If she could experience all of this and still be treated as a equal by the men in her life, it would be a powerful statement that women do not need to cut themselves off from all relationships in order to achieve equality with women.

Frank Pellett  worries that if Rey becomes involved with Kylo Ren, it would make her common.  If Rey had two female friends, she would be both uncommon and common.  She would be uncommon in the sense that it is completely unheard of for a female protagonist in films like these to have even one female friend, never mind two!  She would also be common in the sense that the women in the audience could see themselves and their relationships represented.  They could see her enjoying the same kinds of friendships and having the same kind of conversations that they have, and they can also see that the men in the film treat her as an equal.   The implication is clear.  Women do not need to abandon all relationships in order to deserve equality with men.

2 It would signify a change of culture in these kinds of films.

We saw this most significantly two years ago with Mad Max Fury Road.   Furiosa is great, but I felt that I had seen her before many times.  My favorite characters in the film were the wives.  They were prisoners seeking freedom, but they were not passive victims.   The story of the film is women who have been kept as sex slaves (breeders) desperate to escape their captivity, to the point where they convince Furiosa to take them away.  I watched this film the same day I watched Room with Brie Larson and the basic story is the same (yet the two films could not be more different.)  Without question, my favorite moment in the film is when one of the wives tells Max, “We’re not going back.”  There is a tremendous amount of controversy over the kinds of stories we tell about women in these types of films.  Many people who saw Avengers 2: Age of Ultron were upset that The Black Widow’s subplot revolved around her struggle with infertility.  I am not going to comment on that because I have not seen it.  But I am thrilled that Mad Max Fury Road tells the story of women escaping sexual slavery because it proclaims loud and clear that women’s stories (and this is not a story that could ever be told about a man) have value.

This is a remarkably different kind of story than we normally see in these films.  In most films like these, the story is entirely about the men.  The women are not characters as much as props.  They are things.

Mad Max Fury Road has the opposite point of view.

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Mad Max Fury Road is told through the perspective of the women, and forces men to view the events through their perspective. And men loved it.  

OK, enough about what I want.  Now, I want to talk about what Rey wants.

Part 2: What Rey Wants 

It’s quite simple.  Rey wants a family.

This is made perfectly clear in the film.  Rey lives in pure survival mode, eeking out an existence day to day by scavenging for parts.  She marks off days on a giant board, counting the days that she has been left on Jakku.  I think this is partly why she eventually takes to BB-8.  She is offered a tremendous amount of food in exchange for the droid, and while she is initially tempted, she turns down the offer.  I think this is because BB-8 is the only family she has known since a child.

We get an even greater sense later of how strong her desire for her family is when we discover that Rey is a capable pilot.  She could have stolen a ship at any point and flown off of Jakku, but she never does.  Even when she steals the Millennium Falcon to help Finn and BB-8 escape, she wants to return home to Jakku.  She does not tell Finn why, but we know that this is because she is waiting for her family.

In a way, Rey is portrayed as childlike.  She still keeps a doll in her AT-AT home.  There’s also a sense of childlike play when she puts the helmet on as she sits outside in the sunset.  Most of all, her greatest desire is for her mom and dad to return and for her to resume her life as a daughter.

Rey advances towards this goal, with relationships with Finn and Han Solo, but by the end of The Force Awakens she seems no closer to her goal of a family.  Han is dead.  Finn is gravely injured, and she must leave him behind to go find Luke.

The role of this want (the desire for a family) and the rest of the story (including the possibility of Reylo) depends on a very simple question: Is it a good thing for Rey to desire a family?

This question is not straight forward.  If we look at families through the lens of the Prequel Trilogy, then families are dangerous.  Anakin is unable to detach from his mother, and then he attaches himself to his wife.  The Jedi Council is fearful of Anakin’s attachment to his mother, since they fear that his love for her could lead to his fall to the Dark Side.  Yoda and Obi Wan worry that Anakin’s love for Padme could also lead to the Dark Side.

Their attitude towards families could best be described as this.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26

Anakin does not hate his mother, wife or children, which precludes him from being a Jedi.

If the Prequel Trilogy agrees with Jesus that a Jedis (disciples) cannot be Jedis without hating their biological family, then Rey’s desire for a family is not a good thing, but a weakness and a temptation to be overcome.  Only when she overcomes this weakness can she fully be a Jedi.

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In this scenario, any relationship between Rey and a redeemed Ben Solo (or Finn or anyone else).  Furthermore, in this scenario, Kylo Ren must attack her weakness (her desire for a family) in order to be an effective antagonist.

An antagonist is only successful as an antagonist if the antagonist pushes the protagonist, nullifying strengths and attacking weaknesses.  So far, Kylo has been a terrible antagonist for Rey.  She has only had two conflicts with him and each time she has defeated him easily.  This is also the flaw of Rey in the script, since the writers made her so good and competent that her desire for a family is her only weakness.  (Seriously, how does she speak Wookie?)

In this scenario, Kylo Ren can play upon her weakness in several different ways.  One way would be to have Kylo Ren be her cousin, but this would be an exceptionally weak choice with very low stakes.  There is a vast difference between killing a cousin and killing a father or brother or a lover.  Not many people are close to their cousins in any meaningful way, so the drama would be minimal.  (West Side Story wisely changed the plot so that the Romeo character would murder Juliet’s brother, not her cousin.)  I think the writers would be wise to ignore this possibility, since they desperately need to raise the stakes in the story, and a cousin relationship will not help them.  A cousin is better than say a, father’s brother’s cousin’s nephew’s former roommate, but it’s not that much better.

The other possibilities as well, which would be more in keeping with the idea of Reylo.  One would be for Rey to fall to the Dark Side and hook up with Kylo Ren.  She would then need to kill the man she loves in order to return to the light side.  That would be an incredibly difficult decision, and the conflict is very real.  Drama likes conflict and difficult decisions.

However, I am not sure that The Force Awakens agrees with the Prequel Trilogy (or Jesus for that matter) that families are temptations to the Dark Side that must be avoided at all cost.  Han Solo attempts to bring is father back to the light, and Snoke implies that Han Solo must murder his father to prove his devotion to the Dark Side, rather than the light side.  Rey, on the other hand, is inspired by the death of Han Solo (and and the wounding of her friend) to take up the light saber and accept her destiny.

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Further more, Maz tells Rey that “the belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead.”  This implies that Rey will receive belonging, not just status as a Jedi.

It is interesting to compare and contrast between Rey in The Force Awakens and Luke in A New Hope.  Both Rey and Luke seem a bit young for their ages, but this is where the similarities end.  While Rey seems childlike, Luke seems immature.  Luke whines and complains like a child while pretending to fly toys.  However, he wants something fundamentally different than Rey.  Luke wants to escape Tatooine and become a pilot like his friends, most of whom have already left the planet.  Luke wants adventure and excitement, like many young men his age, and longs to escape the confines of his aunt and uncle.  Rey does not want adventure at all, and wants to return to the safety of her family.  In that sense, Luke is more mature than Rey.  Luke wants to leave his family and seek his fortune in the wider world.  Rey, on the other hand, is a young woman, and she seems to believe that if her parents return, they can simply pick up where they left off, which is a fantasy.

If Rey’s belonging is ahead of her, then she will not gain belonging from her parents, but possibly in the context of a relationship.

If Reylo were to happen in this context, this would mean that Rey would have to seek belonging with a redeemed Ben Solo (Kylo Ren.)

I think this scenario could definitely work, though Disney will need to avoid several pitfalls.  (Note: the presence of pitfalls does NOT mean that Disney shouldn’t pursue a risky course.  Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!)

1 This actually cannot be the A plot of the movie because it simply would not work as the A plot in Star Wars.  It must serve as a minor plot.

2 This will require tremendous character growth from Kylo Ren; to transform him from the antagonist to the love interest.  It would be incredibly difficult to pull off; the risk for failure is real.  (It is a risk that Disney should be willing to take though, I would rather see them risk and fail than play it safe and succeed.)

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3 This will require some character growth from Rey, but not very much.  This is the biggest problem with this scenario, is that it does not test Rey or develop her character.  Unfortunately the writers messed up when they created Rey; they made her a Mary Sue.  She does not struggle enough; she seems to exist without significant weaknesses.  I don’t know what weaknesses they can invent for the next film, but she will need them.  Rey will also need a significant challenge to work towards (perhaps creating a new Grey Jedi path?) that goes beyond simply Training and Defeating the Bad Guy or Falling in Love.  Neither one will get her (or the writers) to the end of episode 9.

One thing that struck me while writing this post is how poorly the character of Rey is drawn.  She’s not dreadful (I’ve seen worse) but she’s not all that great either.  In addition to a total lack of weaknesses, she doesn’t even really want much either.

Does Rey even want to be a Jedi?  She certainly accepts her destiny at the end of episode 7, but why does she?  To save her life and Finn’s life?  That would explain why she fights Kylo Ren at the end of episode 7, but is that a strong enough motive to seek Luke out and train with him?  I don’t think it is.  First of all, nothing that Rey has experienced has actually suggested to her that she needs training.  She easily used the Jedi mind trick, called the light saber to her, and defeated Kylo Ren without much effort.  (Yes, he was injured, but the experience does not suggest to her that she needs training to use the Force.)  With that in mind, leaving Finn exposed to potential Finn in order to receive unnecessary training from Luke does not make sense.

A character’s motivation must be strong in order to move the plot forward, had her weaknesses substantial enough to contribute to conflict.  I don’t know if Rey’s wants or weaknesses are strong enough to do either of them.

Whatever the writers decide to do with Reylo, they desperately need to fix Rey’s character for episodes eight and nine.

 

 

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Ach, Ich Fuhl’s by Genia Kühmeier

We return again to Die Zauberflote, which has some wonderful music wasted on a terrible story.

Seriously, I do not care about Tamino’s search for Masonic enlightenment.  But, this is a very famous aria, and for good reason.  It is far simpler than The Queen of the Nights’ famous showpiece, but it does give the sense of sadness.  I’m sure it’s also far more difficult than it sounds.

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