One perfect example of a passable movie, and one movie that … isn’t

We watched Alice Through the Looking Glass this past weekend, while we were both recovering from annoying but non-threatening illnesses.  It was a textbook example of a passable movie. 


It took no chances. It took what worked from the first one and added a forgettable time travel plot whose stakes suddenly rise to “the fate of all Wonderland and all in it” with the resution literally coming down to the last second. 

Spoiler Alert: Alice succeeds. The entirety of Wonderland is not destroyed. A shocker, really! I mean,  you could cut the tension with a spoon. 


I mean,  how could such an all-star cast put together such a mediocre movie? 


I mean,  without George Lucas?

Okay,  so on to the other movie I watched while resting,  the one that was anything but passable:  Blancaneives.


This movie – a silent, black and white film made in 2011 – is striking just by is choice of medium.  It’s choice to tell the Snow White tale via 1920’s Spanish bullfighting sets it apart even further. 

The performances are all excellent, especially Macarena Garcia, who is luminous as Blancanieves/Carmen.

Spoiler Alert:

Seriously, look away! Close this tab.

I hated the ending.  It felt like a gut punch, like the entire story had been poisoned. 

There were no supernatural elements in this story,  so when Carmen was poisoned, she just went into a “locked in” state.  

The guy who owned her bullfighting contract put her on display (in a coma)  and charged people 10 cents to kiss her and see if they could wake her.

At the end,  one of the dwarfs, the one who had a crush on her,  kissed her,  and a year rolled down her cheek. 

Now,  maybe that was supposed to mean she was waking up,  but if so,  they should have shown it.  From what’s on screen,  all I could see was that she was being held captive and sexually assaulted for money, and that she was fully aware of it.

Oh, hell no. This is like an “original” version of Beauty and the Beast where gain killed the beast, raped Belle,  and forced her to marry him.

Just, no.


Seriously, no. I’d have gone asking with you killing her, but this is just sadistic and even a little misogynist.

So, anyway, great movie, but turn it off before the final scene. Ick.

Long Journey, Part 2: A Long Road That Has No Turn

​https://youtu.be/sGs9V7iDuZU

Yesterday, I talked about how the changes I want to make in my life all promise a lot of effort, even pain, with no guarantee of arrival. 

I’ve been thinking about that since I wrote it,  and it occurs to me just how  fortunate I am.  

The goals I have to struggle toward are self-actualization goals. The first four levels of Maslow’s needs hierarchy are pretty much taken care of. 

I have a good job (one I enjoy most of the time)  with benefits and truly good co-workers. 

There is plenty of food in our panty,  fridge,  and deep freeze,  and money to eat out of we don’t feel like cooking

Our house is safe, dry,  un-infested, and everything works. 

I live in  a safe neighborhood.

I only drive about 2 miles to work.

As a white (cis, het) man, the world is an infinitely safer place for me than it is for most other Americans. 

I have a loving wife and daughter. 

I have an extended family, and we love each other (even my in-laws, which I understand makes me really lucky).

Truthfully, my stakes are low. If I fail at these personal goals, I will be upset with myself, and my life will not improve. 

But my kid won’t starve, I won’t lose my house, I won’t be raped and then watch my rapist get 6 months in prison, and I won’t be gunned down while buying a bb gun at Wal-Mart.  

We all want to improve ourselves and our lives, but it’s easy to lose track and think that if we can, anyone can. For people like me, that kind of thinking is part of the problem. 

Race is a four-letter word (Part Two: A Tale of Two Wal-Marts)

The whole country’s been talking about race lately, and I think we all know why. I’m certainly not immune to this myself.

Like most Americans (at least those of us in the “flyover states”), I simultaneously loathe and frequent Wal-Mart. I hate the ugly, run-down stores. I hate that the employees are underpaid and undertrained … and, as such, are generally very little help. I hate that the corporate ethics are more Machiavelli than Jesus.

But we have just sacrificed a large portion of our income so that the wifie can stay home with our little one, and that means we have to tighten our belts. I’m now in the same boat as the majority of Mississippians: I lack the economic privilege to get snippy about shopping at Wal-Mart.

I live within easy driving distance from two Wal-Marts, which I’ll refer to as “Highway 98” and “Highway 49.” For some reason, I usually prefer to go to Highway 98. I never gave much thought to “why.”

I was getting my list together to go to Wal-Mart the other day, and my first instinct was to go to Highway 98, even though it was farther away. Even though it didn’t carry some of the rarer items I like (KerryGold free-range cheese and butter, for example) that Highway 49 does.

And it occurred to me that maybe this was a matter of race. You see, the Wal-Mart on Highway 98 is a little newer than the one on Highway 49, but it isn’t really cleaner. It doesn’t have better selection. It’s not closer. But it is “whiter.”

Don’t get me wrong: in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, you’re not going to find any all-white or all-black establishments, other than a few barber shops (except for churches. But that’s a rant for another post).

But different parts of town and different stores have different apparent ratios, different unspoken “feels.” I think that’s the case with almost every town in America.

And I have to wonder if that’s part of the equation.

So what do I do? I don’t know if this is ideal, but I decided I wouldn’t darken the door of the Highway 98 Wal-Mart unless I was already out that way (it’s near Sam’s and Target and such) or I was after something Highway 49 didn’t have in stock.

Highway 49 is my Wal-Mart. Whatever reason I had for wanting to go to Highway 98, I won’t be acting on it.

I’ll always be white, and I’ll always have a white American’s viewpoint. I’m not ashamed of my race or ethnicity, but I will not insulate myself from people of other races or ethnicities.

It’s a small thing, really, the choice of which store to shop at. But maybe it’s a start.

Privilege Part One

I’m a pretty regular reader of Rachel Held Evans’s blog, and today, I saw something there that really pricked my conscience: “Church Stories: A Plea to Engage in Racial Reconciliation.”

I urge you to read this.  I’ve never been a “racist” but I know that as a white American, and a Southerner that racism is not a thing of the past.  It lives on in our communities, in our churches, and in ourselves.

(edit) As I posted in a comment at RHE’s blog,

I think it’s like growing up in a house with lead paint on the walls.  Even if you don’t eat the paint chips, you can’t ever really escape it.  The heavy metals hover in the air, seeping into your hair and skin, your blood and heart and brain, like a slow poison, dulling your senses and clouding your mind.  And even if you get out of the house, the lead remains in your system for years, possibly forever, unless you take conscious, even drastic steps to purge it.

Too often, as white people, we hold on to parts of our past that looked good and comforting from our perspective, but were really ugly, unhealthy, and even oppressive.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people praise the values of the 1950’s, but the truth is, for every Beaver Cleaver there was an Emmett Till.

I had some African-American friends in high school, mostly through Beta Club and Marching Band, but the college I went to was overwhelmingly white.

That’s not surprising for a Baptist college (for the record, I wasn’t seeking a sectarian undergraduate experience.  I basically told the college recruiters to show me the money, and Mississippi College gave me the best offer by far.  I think a lot of that school, to be honest: the instructors held us to a high standard of academic rigor, and yes, the biology professors taught us about evolution).

Though not surprising, it was somewhat problematic.  I think the first time I really thought about the issue of race was when the O.J. Simpson verdict was released.  Opinions on it were sharply divided along racial lines.  Ever black student I talked to was happy, and every white student was upset.  I think that was the first time I realized that just trying to ignore race entirely was not going to work.

My graduate school experience landed me in New Orleans and introduced me to a much broader set of ideas and beliefs.  I joined my first non-Baptist church (Crescent City Church of Christ), I became friends with people of several religions (including no religion at all) and people whose concept of gender was perhaps unconventional (at least for a sheltered Baptist boy like me).  It was good to reach beyond my narrow comfort zone in so many ways, but the quiet question of race still remained … specifically, the question that had plagued the South since its inception: white and black.

I graduated, got married, got a job, and basically nothing changed.  Then I started teaching school in Jackson, Mississippi.

If you haven’t been to Jackson, Mississippi, let me explain.  It’s a textbook case of white flight.  The white folks fled to private schools and the ever-expanding periphery, keeping their kids away from the black kids (and I do mean ever-expanding periphery: Madison is 45 minutes from some parts of Jackson).  And there I was, teaching in a school that was 98% African-American.

I really could have done better than I did.  I tried as hard as I could to be a good teacher, but I think along the way I forgot to learn from my students.

And so I find myself here, with my conscience pricked, realizing I am still surprising tone-deaf about race, surprisingly swaddled in my own white privilege.

And I know this isn’t how God wants me to be.