This month marked the thirtieth anniversary of a shooting I had never heard of, perhaps somewhat surprisingly as this one took place in Canada where shootings are rare enough to actually be newsworthy. One viral Tweet describes the event thus:
A blog called phenoMENalAct, which I had never heard of before and have no opinion on, takes issue with this. In an article entitled "Are Men Obligated to Die for Everyone Else?", an anonymous author protests, "Notice how not a single damn is given about the men who got shot during that massacre, whom for all we know, may have tried to intervene. Something else that gets overlooked is the fact that the men didn't know what the shooter was planning, and some, who feel survivors' guilt to this day, have said they would have helped if they knew."
The Tweet's indictment of these men for not "teaming up and fighting the shooter" reminds me of people who demand to know why a police officer didn't just shoot the gun out of a terrorist's hand instead of killing them. It's lofty, idealistic and unreasonable. Yeah, fifty unarmed men probably could have taken the jerk down, but the ones who rushed him first would have been screwed. Should they have drawn straws? Since the jerk was holding everyone hostage, and didn't come in with his gun already blazing indiscriminately like most shooters, it wouldn't have been an unreasonable assumption that everyone's best chance for survival was to cooperate until outside help could arrive. Anyone who's never been under such life-or-death pressure (aka most people in the First World) has little or no business complaining about what others should have done.
The author continues, "Here's a life lesson for you: unless it's their job, no one is obligated to risk their life to rescue you, whether you're a male or female. If a stranger decides to jeopardize their safety, family, etc. just for you, that's one hell of a blessing, but not a right. Our society is so spoiled and judgmental regarding this subject that too many people need to study this paragraph."
I, for one, would be happy to sacrifice my life for almost anyone, because being dead would immediately solve most of my problems. And also because that's the Christian thing to do. But I would agree with the author that this is absolutely not something I owe to anyone. If I did it, I would be a hero precisely because I went far above and beyond what anyone had any right to expect or demand of me.
"That said," the author continues, "the mindset of people complaining about the men says a lot about what society thinks of males. The term for this perspective is 'male disposability.' Apparently, a father's life is so worthless that he needs to take a bullet for women in order to be redeemed. Your son is a waste of life until he tries to fight a murderer and become an extra victim."
From the standpoint of reproduction and the long-term viability of the human species, men objectively are more disposable, but since polygamy has long been frowned upon in Western civilization I highly doubt that's what the framers of this cultural norm had in mind. And of course the implication that the human species deserves to survive is up for debate anyway. No, I imagine this was just another one of those "Let's give women special treatment so they won't notice that we don't let them vote" things.
The author then raises a point I had never considered. "And to you guys who believe that men should play superhero at a moment's notice, what would a random woman contribute to the family you leave behind for her? Would she adopt your kids? Would she start paying the bills for your family?"
Currently, if I gave up my life for someone, I wouldn't feel the slightest twinge of guilt for dodging my obligations to the student loan vampires. But what if, against all odds, I had obligations to a family? Would volunteering to die for a stranger, knowing that it would leave someone I actually knew and loved to finance and raise our bratty children by herself, actually be a noble thing to do?
"Choosing to be a hero is your decision," the author continues, "and I can respect people who make that sacrifice. What I don't respect are people who condemn the men who save themselves. Some say that being a protector is a male instinct. What they seem to forget is that survival is a human instinct."
I've wondered about that. Is being a protector a male instinct? Why? In an era when wolf and bear attacks aren't exactly everyday occurences, what do women need to be protected from, besides men?
The author includes several links to support his thesis about male disposability, and singles out the fact that on the Titanic, "304 out of 412 female passengers survived, compared to 128 out of 776 male passengers." But I think the best evidence by far, which I would have focused on at length if I had written the article, is the untold millions of men in the history of the world who have been sent to their deaths in wars, skirmishes or "police actions" they had nothing to do with. In the United States, men are required to register for "Selective Service", which means they can be conscripted against their will if the military ever needs a lot of soldiers really fast, in order to avail themselves of the rights and privileges that women get by turning eighteen. (A federal judge recently ruled this unconstitutional, so there will probably be a few years of court battles and then women will probably be required to register too. I think we should just abolish the stupid thing, but nobody asked me.)
Then he cites a female author. This is a great rhetorical strategy. When people inevitably claim that focusing on the ways society screws men over is sexist against women, he can point out that Helen Smith, who is not a man, wrote: "The guys’ behavior is a culmination that has been years in the making. Our society, the media, the government, women, white knights and Uncle Toms* have regulated and demanded that any incentives men have for acting like men be taken away and decried masculinity as evil. Now they are seeing the result. Men have been listening to what society has been saying about them for more than forty years; they are perverts, wimps, cowards, assholes, jerks, good-for-nothing, bumbling deadbeats and expendable. Men got the message; now they are acting accordingly. As you sow, so shall you reap."
*The quote in the article says "Uncle Tims", but since it didn't say "[sic]" I'm assuming that was a typo by the anonymous author, not Helen Smith.
I mean, I don't think anyone with more than two brain cells can deny with a straight face that this is exactly what society says about men. I can't say whether or not it's worse than how society degrades women, but it is a separate and independent issue that also exists. What's the point of even trying to be a specimen of positive masculinity if society is going to put you down and ridicule you either way?
In the days leading up to my viewing of "The Rise of Skywalker", I tried to remain untainted and open-minded, without preconceived notions of how much I should reasonably expect to enjoy it. This was difficult to accomplish while being confronted with reviews like "'Rise of Skywalker' is the Worst 'Star Wars' Movie Ever'" or these Facebook posts.
I watched the movie with a small group of friends. We had really good seats except that I was next to a guy who, infatuated with his own voice and unable to understand how public theaters work, thought he needed to verbally react to almost everything that happened onscreen. I wanted to break his nose, but that would have been a path to the Dark Side. I did flip him off a few times but I don't think he noticed in the dark.
My spoiler-free preliminary review of "The Rise of Skywalker": it feels rushed and confusing, tries too hard to exploit nostalgia for the original trilogy, and incorporates several plot points that either too predictable or make little sense even by Star Wars standards. The retcons and justifications for several of "Last Jedi"'s controversial decisions are painfully obvious, making it painfully obvious in turn that the sequel trilogy was made up one movie at a time with no overarching plan or outline from the beginning. The new characters felt awkwardly shoehorned in with little purpose other than to sell toys, and I'm apparently the only person anywhere who doesn't think Babu Frik is cute. Seriously, what's so cute about a ninety-year-old space leprechaun who moves like a crappy stop-motion puppet, looks like his head was squashed and sounds like his brain was damaged in the process? Is this a fricking joke, pun intended?
Notwithstanding all that, the movie has some cool and creative stuff and wraps things up about as well as could be expected given what J.J. Abrams had to work with. The humor, while still not as funny as Disney thinks it is, doesn't feel totally out-of-place and obnoxious like in three of the other four Disney Star Wars movies. I think I like "The Rise of Skywalker" better than either of the previous sequel trilogy installments. It's not a ripoff of an earlier film like "The Force Awakens" and it's not totally bizarre like "The Last Jedi". It was originally announced to be nearly three hours long and I'm guessing there's a lot of cut footage that shouldn't have been cut, that would have made it more coherent and better paced. I thought it would make perfect sense for the finale of nine movies to be the longest one anyway, but nobody asked me.
In any case, with the Skywalker saga out of the way, I hope Disney and subsequently fan films will give the era of the Empire a much-needed rest and move on to other parts of the galaxy's multi-thousand year history. I'd be fine with never seeing another stormtrooper again.
So that was Star Wars. The next and final major event of the year for me is Christmas, or Life Day as they call it in some places, or Impeachmas as several of my left-leaning friends have recently started calling it for some reason. As I'm tired from staying up from the movie, on vacation in sunny Idaho, and generally not in the mood to try and peel back my cynical exterior and wax all poetic about feelings and stuff, yet still feel an obligation to recognize this special day that comes but once a year and only lasts two months, here are some better words from a better person.
"This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again." - Howard W. Hunter
On average I attend one to two movies in the theater per year, and I've never done so on opening night. Most of the garbage that passes for entertainment these days is not, in my opinion, worth ten dollars to see on a big screen, and even when I make exceptions for the few movies I actually really care about, I've never understood the hype or urgency to attend the earliest possible screening. As Rat pointed out in "Pearls Before Swine", "The movie will still be here tomorrow." However, my friend and neighbor somehow secured tickets to see "The Rise of Skywalker" this Friday evening so why not? It's as good a time as any. The fact that he just bought these opening night tickets a week or so ago might not bode well for the level of enthusiasm about this movie, but maybe he just killed people for them and I'm better off not prying too deeply.
It's probably inevitable that my enthusiasm is nowhere near the level of twelve-year-old me exploding with anticipation to see "Revenge of the Sith", which as far as I or most people knew was going to definitely be the last Star Wars movie ever. Disney isn't trying to pretend that this new one is the last one, but they are claiming it's the end of the episodical Skywalker saga and thus it's supplanted "Revenge of the Sith" in that regard. But I don't feel the same excitement. I've had mixed feelings about these newer films, except for "Rogue One" which blew me away, from the moment Poe delivered his first awkward line of dialogue in "The Force Awakens" and I realized from the tittering in the audience that it was supposed to be funny. I try really hard to like them but, except for "Rogue One" which blew me away, they've never quite felt entirely like Star Wars to me. More like Guardians of the Galaxy or something.
And that's probably inevitable. It's probably akin to how people who grew up with only the original trilogy felt about the prequels, which were quite different from what came before. Arguments still rage about whether the prequels are objectively inferior to the originals, or have just been unfairly held to a higher standard by grouchy middle-aged people viewing the originals through nostalgia glasses. I've come to the conclusion that both are true. George Lucas was lucky with the original trilogy to have many talented collaborators who compensated for his shortcomings in scripting, editing and so forth, and by the time the prequels rolled around he no longer depended on them because he was rich and famous and nobody would argue with him about anything. But even so, the prequels have many strengths and they don't have a monopoly on the series' flaws by any means. It will probably take another decade or so of hindsight to decide whether I can embrace the new ones without reservation, except for "Rogue One" which blew me away.
I want to embrace them without reservation. If I do, I will have more opportunities for happiness than the people who hate them, just as I currently do with the prequels. I can say this much right now - and this is a no-brainer given the advance of technology, but still, they're the most visually stunning of any batch of Star Wars movies so far. The cinematography and the near-flawless marriage of practical and digital effects looks light-years better than the practical fakeness of the originals or the digital fakeness of the prequels. The paucity of familiar aliens from the first six movies bugs me and makes them not feel like Star Wars, but the new ones look amazing. It fascinates me that the vast majority of them are costumes and puppets, yet far more advanced, sophisticated and realistic ones than anything George Lucas had at his disposal in 1977. And they look amazing. I already said that but I'm not going to revise it. And of course, as I've said two or three times on this blog before, having more female and non-white characters addresses what was Star Wars' biggest flaw (not sarcasm) and, frankly, also looks great.
Tacking on a third trilogy after the other two had already established a sufficient self-contained story arc seemed unnecessary. On top of that it was clumsily handled, with "The Force Awakens" requiring you to read supplementary materials to figure out just what the heck happened since "Return of the Jedi", e.g. why does the Empire still exist but with a different name, what's the relationship between the First Order and the New Republic, what's the relationship between the New Republic and the Resistance, why should we care about that unnamed planet we just saw for the first time three seconds before the third Death Star blew it up, and like that. But the prequels weren't entirely cohesive with the originals either. Watching the first six movies through leaves some plot holes and unanswered questions. And now J.J. Abrams has had the chance to rectify that for good, to draw all nine Skywalker saga films into one satisfying conclusion and tie it up with a neat little bow, and that's exactly what he claims to have attempted to have done. If he succeeded, this movie is going to be fricking amazeballs for more than just the space battle with twenty billion ships.
Also, Palpatine and Lando and Wedge are back. If Disney thinks I'll play right into their money-grubbing hands just because they so blatantly attempt to exploit my nostalgia like that, they are absolutely right.
I was just talking with someone the other night about "Splinter of the Mind's Eye", the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel ever written, which has a special place in my heart for how its influence helped to shape my own novel. It was written as a potential low-budget sequel if the original movie flopped, meaning for example that it has no space battle and virtually all takes place on one planet where the fog would have saved a lot of money on sets. And I've given some thought since that conversation to how history could have played out differently. If the original movie had flopped, we would have gotten this on screen instead of "The Empire Strikes Back", and then probably nothing else. Maybe both movies would have been all but forgotten, or maybe they would have become cult classics. Hollywood would have attempted to remake them at least once at some point during its "almost complete lack of original ideas" phase that shows no signs of dissipating anytime soon.
Now I quite like "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" and it would make an interesting movie in its own right, but I and the world at large are so blessed by how much more we got instead - movies, TV shows, novels, comic books, and video games from now until the extinction of the human race. By the time "Revenge of the Sith" rolled around I had reluctantly come to terms with the then-understood fact that George Lucas' rumored Episodes VII, VIII, and IX weren't going to happen and this movie was really the end. I think that helped to make it as special as it was. But now those movies exist after all. Where once there was nothing, there is now something, and I think that something is better than nothing even if it isn't what it could have been and what I might have chosen. Even the two-hour mediocrity-fest of "Solo" was better than nothing. Even the Holiday Special is better than nothing. Clearly I need professional help.
On an unrelated note, today marks five years since my finest moment of any kind ever. I really don't know why I bother to go on living anymore knowing that I'll never do anything to equal or surpass this achievement. I guess just to annoy people.
Recently I saw this thing on Facebook and decided to tear it apart, because that's what I do.
This is, of course, a highly contrived fictional conversation that somebody made up to pat himself on the back for how woke he thinks he is. (That's still the word kids today are saying, right?) So I shouldn't hurt anybody's feelings by mansplaining what should be the self-evident fact of how ridiculous it is. Of course I realize that in the hierarchy of hate crimes, mansplaining is just below smiling while white, but I never said I was perfect.
Ugh. I know the feeling.
"This 'sexual harassment' ---- is -------- ridiculous".
I am not inclined to empathize or side with someone who starts off by saying this. Actual sexual harassment is wrong, plain and simple, and should not be tolerated in any workplace. But again, this is a fictional person and almost nobody in real life is stupid enough to say this so bluntly in public even if it reflects his actual opinion.
"What, now I can't even tell a woman she is pretty without getting in ---- for it?"
This part is a tad more realistic, and the point where I expected the post to take a completely different turn than it did. I expected the author to say something like, "No, you just have to treat women with respect and not be a pervert. You shouldn't feel personally victimized by that concept. Allow me to explain the difference between sincere, thoughtful compliments and sexual harassment."
"Well, we've worked together for you've never told me I'm pretty."
"That's because you're a dude, like me."
In this instance, the fictional person is correct and the person making up this conversation is an idiot. It is not and never has been normal in any English-speaking region of the world to call a dude "pretty" as a compliment. Even if you're gay. The typical male equivalent is "handsome". If the author had demonstrated a first grade level of English fluency by recognizing this fact instead of pretending that two entirely different contexts are the same thing, he would have greatly strengthened his argument. But he didn't.
"Gotta tell ya, that's a little disappointing because I think you're pretty."
"Cut that ----, bro. You're creeping me out."
Again, the fictitious nature of this conversation is painfully obvious. Based on the context immediately preceding these statements, to say nothing of the way most straight males aged twelve to thirty interact with each other, the fictional sexist straw man would need an IQ in single digits to not realize the author is just being a jackass and messing with him. He certainly would not play right into the author's exceptionally woke hands by saying "You're creeping me out." At best he would roll his eyes and say (correctly) "You're an idiot." But in this SJW wet dream, anything goes.
"Soooo me telling you that you're pretty when you neither asked for nor welcomed comments about your appearance is making you feel uncomfortable."
What alternate reality is this guy living in where you're not supposed to compliment people until they "ask for" it? The same alternate reality where there's no difference between calling women and men "pretty", I suppose. And how exactly does one "welcome" compliments? "Attention, everyone, I am now welcoming comments about my appearance for the next fifteen minutes. Please submit your comments before the deadline or they will not be accepted." Look, if someone is making unsolicited unflattering remarks about your weight or complexion or whatever, of course that's messed up and you have a right to be upset. But if you think people need your permission to say you look attractive, and/or if you can't tell the difference between those things, something's wrong with you.
No, not really, you pompous tool.
And the story ends there. I suppose modesty forbade the author from mentioning the part where all his other coworkers applauded, and the misogynist piece of crap was so ashamed of his behavior that he deleted all his Facebook posts where he had accused Rey of being a Mary Sue.
Once upon a time, a gay friend told me that I'm "dorky cute". I'm not gay, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. More recently, a straight friend told me, "I know guys aren't really supposed to say this, but that shirt really brings out your eyes." He was right, guys aren't really supposed to say that, I appreciated the compliment anyway and started wearing that shirt a lot more often. Last week at church, a friend of my grandparents who's old enough to be my mother asked them, referring to me, "Who is this handsome man?" The obvious explanation is that she needs stronger glasses, but I appreciated the compliment anyway. Though I would have appreciated it more if she had called me pretty. Why didn't she call me pretty, when all the people more woke than me know that's a perfectly normal way to describe men? Another time, I was in the restroom at Hasting's (now closed) when some guy outside started whispering "I want you." I looked around for something to kill him with if he came inside. So I would certainly qualify that one as sexual harassment.
I'm hardly an expert, but here's some free advice on giving compliments that aren't harassment. I waive all responsibilty for death or injuries that may result from following said advice.
First of all, I don't think you should call someone pretty or handsome or cute or whatever unless you actually know them a bit. When complimenting strangers, which if done properly brightens any normal person's day, I think it best to focus on an item of clothing or swag and leave it at that. "I like your scarf", etc. Maybe if you have social skills and pure intentions you can proceed to get to know this person but I wouldn't bother. Even with someone you know, a specific compliment with some thought put into it is usually more meaningful. Something that singles out the clothing, a physical feature from the neck up, a personality trait, or a skill.
I would forego the gender-specific and potentially loaded terminology altogether, to say nothing of slang that could make someone feel objectified, and just say "You look nice." I have never experienced or heard of someone reacting negatively to being told that they look nice. Sometimes they have low self-esteem and try to deny it, but they probably won't bite your head off, but then again people apparently exist who think you need prior authorization to say something like that. Perhaps I've just been fortunate enough to avoid those people. Not that I go around giving out as many compliments as I'm making it sound like here.
If you're a middle-aged or older man, probably just don't compliment anything about the appearance of a woman in her twenties who isn't related to you. It's not harassment if done properly but it just isn't necessary enough to justify the potential discomfort. Yes, there is a double standard that makes this less acceptable than when the genders are reversed, but let's be honest, we all know that double standard exists for a reason and we all know what that reason is. I wish we lived in a world where everyone had pure motives and just wanted to brighten everyone else's day out of the goodness of their hearts. But since we don't, I'll just keep being a jerk.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.