Friday, November 21, 2008

Reality Bites

Many upon many teenage girls have been waiting for this day, because on this day Twilight comes to theaters. A lot of the girls that I teach every day already have tickets to go tonight. In case you don't know what this phenomenon is all about, Twilight is based on a book of the same name written by Stephanie Meyer, and has spawned three sequels. These books are about a girl named Bella who moves to a small town in Washington state, who falls in love with a stange guy named Edward who just happens to be a vampire. These books have been flying off the shelves. Some would even compare this series popularity to Harry Potter. I would disagree with that assesment, but that is a topic for another time. Being a high school teacher I have seen many female students with these books under their arms, trying to grab any spare minute they can to read a few pages. When I've asked about these books, I find that I get the same answer, which is that they are a "Vampire Romance." When I ask more questions, I find out that girls are attracted not to the story, not to the characters, but to this idea of a perfect romance that lets nothing stop it, not even the need to drink blood, avoid sunlight, and go easy on the garlic. I have some concerns about this, especially because of its popularity among young girls. It has nothing to do with vampires. I actually like vampire stories, but for other reasons. Vampires are simply a plot device for these books. I also want to make it clear that this is not a knee-jerk reaction like the one that so many gave about Harry Potter. I like Harry Potter and again that is a discussion for another day. Harry Potter did not make kids think that they could go to school and become a wizard. What is dangerous about Twilight for girls is the same thing that is so dangerous about pornography for boys, well, one of the things about pornography that's dangerous. That danger is in unreal expectations. Pornography builds this idea about sex for boys that is completely unrealistic and dangerous because it makes them expect certain things about women and sex, and when the real thing comes around, there is a big letdown because expectations were so high. The same is true for the perfect romance. Just like guys want perfect sex, girls want the perfect romance, and books like Twilight make them think that it is possible. Then those expectations are never met, which can lead to many a problem later in life. What's harder about things like Twilight is that you can't just make a blanket statement about it like you can pornography. I don't think that I would say don't read it, but I would say let's read it together and talk about it, because any unrealistic expectations hurt the one who has them, but it really hurts the one they are put upon. Marriage and romance and sex for that matter can be hard and diffiucult at times, and it takes work for them to work. The best thing to do then is put a stake in the heart of unrealistic expectations. Sorry, but the pun was there so I had to use it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quantum of Solace

It has been awhile since I have gotten to see a movie in the theater, so I was really excited to see the next installment of Daniel Craig's Bond. I absolutely loved Casino Royale, but I think that was due in part to having low expectations going in. As far as Bond films go, From Russia With Love was my favorite until Casino Royale, which meant that I had to really keep my expectations in check last Saturday night, because having high expectations can kill a movie. But Quantum lived up to my expectations. There is no way that it could be better than Casino Royale, but I was not expecting it to be. I loved it anyway. I like our modern Bond, who actually opperates in the real world, where the bad guys have a shade of gray, and you actually have some continuity between the films and the action scene at the beginning and the rest of the movie. That last sentence will make more sense if you are a Bond fan. Action was real and brutal, the relationship between Bond and M worked very well, and the sexual aspect which is so heavy in other Bond films was almost absent from this one, which is a welcom change of pace. Craig makes a perfect Bond because he is his own, not trying to re-create Connery, which is what all the others were trying to do, or have done to them. I also liked the nod to Goldfinger. My only complaint was the exploding hotel at the end, which had the whole "evil lair self destructing" feel to it. I would also say that I can't understand most of the negative reviews. As a friend pointed out to me, everything that Roger Ebert loved about Casino Royale, he did not like about Quantum. I for one don't get it. But this is one I'll be getting come DVD time.

Quantum of Solace gets a 9/10
Casino Royale got a 10/10

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Farewell Michael Chrichton

Michael Chricton died on Tuesday, Nov 4. I have been a big fan of his work since my Algebra teacher in 7th grade showed us the movie version of "The Andromeda Strain." Most folks probably know him as the author of "Jurassic Park" which Steven Spielberg turned into a wonderful film. I think the one thing that I always enjoyed about his storied was that they always had a sense of caution to them. The whole point of "Jurassic Park" was that these great leaps in genetic engineering had been made, but were they the right leaps to be made? I also appreciated how in his later days he was one of the few who in the name of actual science, cautioned against global warming hysteria, like Al Gore's "An Inconvienient Truth." His books had a very naturalistic worldview, but were still great stories. Not all of his books have grabbed me, "Rising Sun" being the most notable, but I do look forward to the next one that he completed before his death.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fun at School

Every year for Homecoming Week at school there are dress-up days and it's a great opportunity for this Star Wars geek to let the Dark Side out with his kids before school.