Reading: Lena Dunham & Jill Duggar, Cussing Kids, The Fly, Racism, The Incredibles & More

Also: The Church of Satan’s movie criteria, skeptics make the best religious movies, Bill Watterson’s comeback, the Force as religion, and evolutionary psychology’s shortcomings.
Lena Dunham

As it turns out, Lena Dunham and Jill Dillard (né Duggar) may have more in common than you’d think: “We take Lena Dunham and Jill Duggar seriously as arbiters of how to live because so many of us, religious, secular, conservative and progressive alike, have sacrificed the medium for the message. As long as one of the many, many people cluttering pop culture in the digital age says something we agree with, we don’t care how she says it. And while we watch from our respective corners, cheering or jeering as the case may be, each woman sacrifices her sense of self and the freedom to grow up in private on the altars of ideology and politics and commerce.”

You might’ve seen the recent viral video featuring potty-mouthed little girls talking about sexism and misogyny. Luke Harrington really dislikes it: “I have yet to meet an individual who clutches at her pearls (or his pearls, I guess) upon hearing a little girl say “f**k,” but shrugs indifferently upon hearing about a rape. That person does not exist. This is a video that coerces little girls into setting fire to straw men for no better reason that to drum up t-shirt sales.”


Kevin McLenithan draws parallels between David Cronenberg’s The Fly and The Passion of the Christ: “The Passion is devotional art, while Cronenberg’s film falls into the body horror’ subgenre. But both films draw their aesthetic frisson from similar sources. The experience of having a body — with all its attendant limitations, weaknesses, and appetites — is the one truly universal human experience. This is why Christ’s incarnation is so central to Christian theology, and it’s also why body horror is so uniquely powerful. The one thing you cannot escape is your physical self. What if your own body becomes alien and hostile to you? What if the thing that you fear the most is yourself?”

Helen Lee writes about her son’s first encounter with racism: “I never wanted any of my kids to feel… that their cultural heritage was some sort of personal liability, cosmic error, or just bad luck that resulted in their being on the people of color’ side of the multiethnic divide. I never wanted any of them to look in the mirror and wish they could scrub all the Asian out. For this reason, throughout their lives I have celebrated the reality that they are 100% American and 100% Korean (and, in fact, 100% Canadian as well by virtue of having a father from north of the border). An identity trifecta, one I had hoped they would embrace with pride, resulting in a self-knowledge to protect them from other people’s cultural ignorance or race-related ill will.”

The Incredibles, Brad Bird

The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar movie, so I really enjoyed this Dissolve staff discussion of The Incredibles’ style, substance, and superhero homage: “[W]hile The Incredibles was remarkable in its time, it’s even more remarkable now as a vision of what the superhero genre might have become if the industry weren’t so tied to the strategy of adapting established properties. This was the first time I’ve seen the movie since 2006, and while I loved it then, viewing it this time from the context of pop culture’s current superhero glut, I was doubly impressed. The Incredibles is one of the best superhero movies, full-stop. It’s also probably the best example of a far rarer, trickier beast: the animated superhero movie.” Related: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Steven D. Greydanus’ wonderful review of The Incredibles.

Did you know that the Church of Satan has a list of recommended movies that espouse Satanic and diabolical values? However, as this interview with the church’s high priest reveals, “satanic” movies are probably not quite what you think they are: “Barry Sonnenfeld’s Addams Family Values. No film shows a stylized version of genuinely Satanic people quite like this one does. The Addams family behave like and share the aesthetics of many of us. The film celebrates the outsiders who hold their ground against pressures to conform to normalcy — and it is full of exquisitely diabolical dialogue.” As a Christian and movie-lover, I found it very interesting to see how another belief system interprets films, particularly films that Christians have praised for holding or promoting “Christian” ideals.

Of Gods and Men

The aforementioned Steven D. Greydanus considers why atheists and agnostics have made some of the best “religious” movies: “In religious themes, some find a powerful framework in which to explore ideas of meaning, higher purpose, moral obligation, commitment, sacrifice, and a sense of transcendence. The vocabulary and expressions of religion offer access to something many nonbelievers are drawn to.”

Gracy Olmstead considers why now might be the perfect time for Bill Watterson to make a comeback to the field of comics: “But Watterson has been out of the public eye long enough, and Calvin and Hobbes have been consigned to classic status. People revere the strip. They appreciate its set-apartness from the commercialization of other classics. Most fans wouldn’t even want a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon or stuffed animal line, if it became available. Through their love of Calvin and Hobbes, they have come to love Watterson and his vision for the strip, as well. They appreciate and respect his protection of Calvin and Hobbes.” Via

Star Wars Lightsaber Duel

Emily Asher-Perrin ponders that age-old nerd question: is the Force a religion? “If the Force can be viewed as a religion, then Star Wars has some very interesting things to say about faith. About its manifestation in culture, about how it can be abused by the powerful, about its role in giving people hope for their future. It also informs our perspective on characters and objects in different ways. Han is a skeptic, Yoda is a guru, Obi-Wan a protector of the traditions that comprise Force-immersed culture. Luke is their newest conversion. Holocrons are the equivalent of gospels, set down by various masters. Lightsabers are considered so highly by their Jedi wielders because they are holy weapons that only they are meant to use.”

Taking the piss out of the “new science” (i.e., evolutionary psychology): “We should be careful to distinguish the New Science from the physical sciences, which it resembles only in pantomime. The astonishing success of the physical sciences, from molecular biology to astrophysics, is what gives the New Scientists the confidence to pretend they’re doing the same thing the big boys are doing. The confidence, as we’ll see, is badly misplaced. Experiments that furnish the data for the New Science lack the test tubes, the microscopes, the particle accelerators that so impress us laymen about traditional science. Because the New Science takes as its subject such hard-to-pin-down phenomena as thoughts, motives, mental impressions, emotional reactions, and so on, its data are rather more elusive, too.” Via

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