“Black Panther”, Take 2: What we learned

Unless you live under a rock you have heard the buzz around “Black Panther”.  It broke all kinds of box office records, got huge critic approval and fans love it.  It has also refined what a hero can look like. I have seen it twice and it is a wonderful movie.  Engaging, fun, and enjoyable.  What follows contains spoilers, so if you are waiting to watch it until the film is released for home viewing, stop reading now.

Obviously, the movie is notable in that practically the entire cast is black.  And contrary to popular movie making wisdom, white people flocked to the movie in droves.  We were seemingly unconcerned the the hero, villain, and entire supporting cast didn’t look like us.  For me, the worst thing about seeing “Black Panther” as a white woman was that I feel that it is not my place to randomly shout “Wakanda Forever” and give the Wakanda salute.  Because, honestly, it is SO COOL!

Another trope that was ‘wrong’ for an action movie the villain, Killmonger, was multi-layered and complex.  His motivations were good even though his execution was wrong.  I actually kind of liked him until he started killing people.  His view of the world is not wrong.  He doesn’t want to burn down the world, he wants to right wrongs and rectify injustice.  The best description of him I have read said he is “not the villain in T’Challa’s story.  He is the hero of his own story.”  The secondary antagonist, M’Baku, was also layered.  His primary concern was not the usurping of power, but the protection of his own people.  Plus he was hysterical.

The next stereotype to fall was the role of women.  It is usual for there to be one woman who is ‘part of the team’ and perhaps another to fill another a typical woman’s role (damsel, love interest, mother, wise woman, etc.)  “Black Panther” had many women.  The hero was literally surrounded by powerful women who were treated with respect, listened to, and were in positions of leadership.  They were warriors, diplomats, scientists, and spies.  There wasn’t a distressed damsel in sight.  In fact the women did the rescuing.  Interestingly, in spite of the strong and diverse cast of women, “Black Panther” barely passes the Bechdel test.  For those who don’t know or don’t remember, the Bechdel test asks simply that there me at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a male character.  A shocking number of films do not meet this standard and “Black Panther” was almost one of them.  The many amazing women in the film talked almost exclusively about the men in the film when they talked to each other.  It is one low spot is what would otherwise a film that shines as a beacon for underrepresented demographics.

For me, I hope that Hollywood learns the lessons of “Black Panther” and is brave enough to trust that good movies will succeed no matter what color the cast might be.




Today is National Walkout Day.  Organized by students for students its purpose is to both honor those who were killed in Parkland, Florida and call for stricter restrictions on gun sales.  Unsurprisingly, many adults are doing their best to stop it.  From threatening punishments for students who walk out, to diminishing the importance of what these young people are doing adults are using every tool they have to end the protest.  It has made me think about a lot of things.  Both how I would have handled this as a student and as a parent of a high school student.  Neither of which are currently applicable.  I do know this:  As a student not only would my parents have supported me walking out in protest, I would have gone back to school with a note for an excused absence and my mother would have turned the school upside down if I was unreasonably punished for protesting.  As a parent I would have done the same.  I find myself confused by parents who act differently.

The one specific push back that I have noticed is the movement telling students to “Walk Up not Out”.  This takes the above graphic, crosses out “Out” replaces it with “Up” and gives a list of things to do to be nicer to people.  Honestly, this has made me crazy since I first saw it and this morning when I saw it posted yet again I figured out why.

  1.  It’s a thinly veiled argument against gun control. It implies that guns aren’t the problem. It changes the entire focus of the protest and diminishes the students opinions.
  2. It silences students. It tells them that their voices don’t matter in the conversation that the ‘grown-ups’ are having.  Alternatively it tells them that they do not have the right to protest again, diminishing their opinions.
  3. It tells the protesters that they are wrong.  It tells them that they do not understand what is really happening in the world and that if they did, they would change their behavior.  Again, you guessed it, diminishing their opinions.
  4. Finally, and most importantly IT BLAMES THE VICTIMS. It basically tells kids ‘if you were nicer, you wouldn’t have been shot.’ If only someone had sat with the various shooters at lunch, agreed to go to prom with them, or partnered with them in science class everything would have been fine.  I call BS on that.  It is not the job of a teenager to determine who is a threat and make sure to be nice to them. It is the job of the adults around them to make sure they are safe.  And if we aren’t going to do it, they will do it themselves.

So, I support the walkout.  I hear their voices. As adults we need to stop judging them, blaming them, and stop diminishing what they say.

Is school attendance important?  Yes.

Could we all be kinder? Yes.

Is that the point of the argument?  No.

Let the young people walk out.  Let them speak.  Let them be a part of the conversations that directly effect them and the world they live in.  Honor their courage and their opinions.  They are not wrong.

#Enough is #enough.

“Black Panther”, Take 1: What Might Have Been

Anyone who is anyone is talking about “Black Panther” and with very good reason.  The movie is excellent on many levels, not all of which are for me.  It is a very black movie and I am fine with that.  But what that means is that the movie resonates with me differently than it would if there were more white people.  In fact I left the movie theater calling the one white man aiding the Wakandans ‘Bilbo’ (after the character the actor played in a different movie) because I couldn’t remember his name.  His character was important, but not crucial.  Much like the minority characters that are placed in predominantly white movies.  More importantly, however, was the way the movie made me think about what might have been.

****There are some minor spoilers here, but nothing plot revealing.  If you have any familiarity with the Marvel Cinematic  or Comic Universe you know all these things.  You will quite possible know them from the movie previews, if you don’t want to know any back story, though, stop reading now.****

Wakanda is an African nation that was never colonized.  It is, in fact, the most technologically advanced nation on Marvel’s planet Earth.  And over and over as I watched this movie I had to think, “What would Africa look like today if Europeans had just left it alone?’  It is a sobering question for someone who lives a life built on the bones of Empire.

Now like all white people do, I will explain that I am not rich.  I didn’t descend from nobility.  I am from a long line of peasant stock who left their country of origin to find a better life.  In fact I only have to count a few generations back to find people arriving in the US for the first time, not all of them legally.  We did not conquer anyone.  We did not own anyone.  But we are all white Europeans.  No one questioned our right to better ourselves.  No one said we were less than human.  No one treated us like property.  My life has been built on that privilege.  Watching “Black Panther” was a sobering reminder of what other peoples and cultures had to give up so I could have my life.  And is made me wonder: What if?

What if in the 16th and 17th centuries Europeans hadn’t invaded Africa?

What if the continent of Africa hadn’t had its nations destroyed, its land confiscated, its resources pillaged, and it people stolen?

Would would the nations of Africa look like now?

The centuries in which Europe brutalized is southern neighbor is notable for the great advances in knowledge and technology.  Many of the foundations for modern day scientific inquiry were formalized. A year after the first reported use of slaves in the ‘New World’, Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa.  African nations, like their European neighbors were struggling with religious debates, changing modes of government, and nations rising and falling and they conquered and were conquered in their turn.  Though somehow the picture of “African” that has persisted even into this century is the hide-clad plains dweller living in a hut and carrying a spear.  It’s a lie and always has been.

Africans were diminished by their conquerors.  A continent of diverse and changing nations was reduced to one thing ‘Africa’ by people who considered themselves to have nothing in common with people from the next village.  Healers were termed ‘witch doctors’ by people who let their own healer bleed and/or poison them to ‘balance their humors’.  People who were ruled by nobility who married and abandoned wives all the while keeping mistresses belittled the family models of other cultures.  Colonization has often been painted as bringing civilization to the ‘savages’, but that is just spin.  The conquerors brought nothing that the locals would not have figured out themselves.  Seven years after Michelangelo finished painting the Sistine Chapel, the Chinese started using a rear-loading cannon that is still the foundation of today’s technology.  No White people were involved.

I do not believe that Wakanda would be real if it wasn’t for European colonization.  It is an imaginary place with technology based on a fictional metal contained in a meteorite.  But I have to wonder, what technological advances didn’t happen because the people and resources needed for it to happen weren’t there?  What great minds of the 16th and 17th centuries died in chains because of the color of their skin?

What did we do to the nations and peoples of Africa?

How much poorer is our world because of it?

“Ragnarok”: You should see it

I am going to do my best to let you know how much I enjoyed “Thor: Ragnarok” without ruining the movie for those few of you who haven ‘t seen it.  But you should really see it.  You might be able to find it lingering in some theaters still, but you can buy it digitally now and own the disk in a few weeks.  Watch it!

I have been a fan of Thor since the first movie, which surprised me at the time.  Thor was far from a favorite character in my comic books.  He was uninteresting, he talked strangely, and just flew around with a hammer.  He was a character that was in things I read, not a character I sought out on his own.  When the first movie was announced, I was curious at best wondering how anyone was going to make this unapproachable hero interesting for two hours.  I was impressed.  Straczynski & Branagh did a wonderful job crafting a movie that retained the epic scope of who Thor is while quite literally bringing him down to earth.  The story was a classic coming of age story, despite the fact that the main character was centuries old.

The second movie shifted focus.  It was somewhere between a war story and a save the princess story.  There was less work on the individual characters and it felt (like many of the movies often do now) like a cog in the machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Hints were dropped, the world was saved, but we already knew Thor was in “Avengers 2” so there was no real jeopardy.  It was good, not great, and definitely felt like a set up for other things.

“Ragnarok” was once again different from its predecessors.  There was a return to classic storytelling with Thor embarking on a hero’s journey to save his home and reclaim his power.  However things did not unfold in the way we have come to expect.  The heroes aren’t that heroic, the villain has a valid point of view (although is over the top in enforcing it), the happy ending isn’t happy, and the finale has no conclusion.  It wasn’t what I expected, but I liked that it felt different.  I liked that the story wasn’t cookie cutter with predictable movements from one act to another.  The film obviously sits within a wider universe with stories that are woven together, but it does not feel tied down to the universe.  It was also funny which is a big plus for me.

If you are at all invested in the Thor character or the greater MCU, “Ragnarok” is a must see.  Fortunately, it is also enjoyable and unpredictable.  It may not be the best of the MCU movies, but it is far from the worst.


I threw off my groove!

Hello again readers.  Have you missed me?  It’s been a while.  Back in October I was reflecting on finishing my third year writing as the Pastor in Mouse Ears.  Now it is Valentine’s Day and I am finally back.  What happened?  Where did the time go?  Someone threw off my groove!

I actually know what happened, where the time went, and who threw off my groove.  it was me.  It was all me!

If you remember from oh so long ago, I moved last summer to a new community.  New house, new church, new way of being me in a new place.  At first, I just tried to shift my old model and make it fit into the new place.  It didn’t really work.  The more I tried to squeeze old things into the new shape, the more things fell out.  Things just didn’t fit the right way.  Instead of moving and adjusting I just stopped anything that didn’t fit into its old place.  I threw off my groove.

Looking back it makes sense.  I’ve had to make a lot of changes.  I have to cross state lines to see a movie.  My nearest Target is 50 minutes away.  The baristas at the coffee shop don’t know my name or my drink.  There is no decent breakfast burrito anywhere. (You probably didn’t know that the majority of my blogs were fueled by breakfast burritos, but they were.)  My Tuesdays and Thursdays (when I used to write my blog) are now the two busiest days of my week.  Instead of reevaluating my writing schedule I would simply decide that I had missed my writing day again and resolve to do better next week.  I went from two blogs a week to one, then none.  The longer it went on, the worse I felt about stepping back in.  It’s time to make a change.

Here is the beginning of my new groove.  If Emperor Kuzco can do it, so can I.  So stay tuned.  I’ve got a back log of movie reviews to start with, “Thor: Ragnarok”, “Coco”, and the blast from the past “The Black Cauldron”.  From there, I’m not sure where the wind will take me.  I have contemplated a series on Pixar’s shorts and another on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Both of those bring up the question of when to start.  Do I begin at the beginning or when they were purchased by Disney?  This bears serious thought.

So welcome to the New Groove.  I will try my best to keep writing, sharing my love for Disney, and highlighting those places in the Disney canon where the light of the Gospel shines through.  I will be gentle with myself and flexible with process.  That may mean that the blog is not a structured as it used to be, but that’s OK.  There is no right or wrong way to write in the new groove, just the way that works.  I hope you continue to enjoy the process with me.

Faith, Trust, & Pixie Dust,

Pastor Mouse



Three years by the numbers

It is once again my blogiversary.  I have been slogging along writing down my thoughts for three years now.  The thing about writing this stuff and sending it out into the universe along the world wide web is that I really have no idea where it goes and who it effects.  WordPress very nicely tracks statistics for me, so while I have no idea about impact I do have statistics.

This is what I know:

I have written 256 blog posts (this is 257).

I have 79 fans on Facebook, an additional 56 followers on WordPress, plus 8 more on Twitter.

My blog has been read 7,032 times in 87 different countries.  Almost a third of my readers live outside the United States. They are not necessarily regular readers. There is a list of 59 countries where one person visited my blog once. But there are 27 other countries where my blog has been viewed 10 times or more.  I have fairly impressive numbers in France, Germany, and The Philippines.

My most read blog fluctuates between ‘The Power of Sadness’ and ‘East or West: Which Disney Park is the Best?’

I have received 2 offers to become a regular writer for other blogs.

I have received 1 negative comment.  This may be the most surprising statistic of all.

The range of topics I have covered has been many and varied.  I will continue to write whatever strikes my fancy tackling church issues, contemporary debates, movie reviews, and all things Disney.  One of my goals this years is to write another long series on the Disney/Marvel Universe.  We’ll see how it goes.  We’ve got a lot of Disney movies coming in the next few months that I will want to talk about.

Thank you to all of you who read this little blog.  It is neither cool nor famous, but I appreciate those of you who take the time to read my thoughts.  I hope you continue to enjoy it as much as I enjoy reading it.  Here’s to the next year.



The women who read this blog know that abuse and harassment is a fact of our lives.  So much so that it often just becomes background noise as we move through the world.  Men have self-given permission to say whatever they want to us.  Our bodies are communal property that belongs to them as much as us.  They can insult us, judge us, want us, reject us and we are supposed to take it all with good humor.  Men can and do deny this reality saying not all men do this, women are over sensitive or can’t take a joke, or (my personal favorite) that it’s a complement.  I have been harassed many times in my life and my responses have ranged from formal complaint to ignoring it.  This is the story of the first time I was harassed.

I was at an amusement park standing in a queue.  The man behind me pushed into me.  I turned around but he didn’t apologize.  I didn’t think much about it.  Crashes happen in line.  Then it happened again.  I responded with an angry “Hey!” but he just laughed at me.  He started grabbing me and buckling my knees so I would fall backwards against him.  My assertions to stop were laughed at by him and his friends.  The staff person standing outside the maze literally turned his back on me when I tried to get help.  The people standing around us ignored the behavior.  Eventually the people in my group shifted so I could move away.  That probably just put someone else in harm’s way but at that point I didn’t care.  I learned several things in that 20 minutes of hell.  First, that I wasn’t safe and second that no one cared.  I was twelve years old.

I will repeat that for clarity.  I was a twelve-year-old girl being harassed in a public space by a man much older than myself.  His behavior was ignored by staff and bystanders and encouraged by his friends.

Are you appalled?

Are you shocked?

Are you offended?

Probably not.  It is a common story.  It’s not even that horrible.  I suffered no lasting damage from the encounter, but it did change me.  I stand sideways in lines now so I can see the people on either side of me.  If there is a railing or barrier, I keep it at my back.  I always make sure The Princess is in front of me in a line so I can see her.  These are behaviors I don’t even think about and only noticed when I started sharing this story with people.

That is how I was changed the first time I was targeted.  In the more than thirty years since, I have modified my behavior in many ways to minimize the damage to myself.  Most of those changes I am probably not even aware of.  But I do know the moment when I decided I had had enough.  I was walking down a street with The Princess.  She was sixteen and we were being cat called.  First from a passing car and then from a random man on the street corner who told us to smile.  I felt myself putting on my self-defense smile, saw my daughter standing next to me, and stopped.  I frowned instead.  I glared at the man and opened my mouth, not to be meek but to tell him to leave me and my daughter alone and say who knows what else.  Because that man, whoever he was, was about to get years of repressed fear and anger dumped on his head.  I don’t know if it is a good or bad thing, but The Princess noticed.  She grabbed my arm and dragged me along, repeating, “Mom, don’t.” until we were past him.

In that moment, I had snapped.  All I could see was my daughter facing the same ongoing, pointless, relentless harassment that I had face and I was done.  I remain done.  My tolerance for this behavior is over.  You can say I’m too sensitive.  Fine, If I’m too sensitive I’ve been made that way by men whose comments were not innocent.  You can say I can’t take a joke.  Jokes about violating women’s boundaries or causing them harm aren’t funny.  If you think they are, there’s something wrong with you.  You can say I can’t take a compliment but if you want to really compliment a woman running past you, try “Run strong” or “Keep going” not “Nice Ass”.

I’m done putting up with it.  If that makes me another angry woman, so be it.  I dare any man to live with what women live with and not get angry.  More than that I dare men to listen to the stories that are being told without being defensive and offended.  You know it happens.  You have done it yourself or allowed your friends to get away with it.  You have turned away when a stranger needed your voice, your help, your intervention.  Don’t be offended by the women posting #Metoo be offended by the fact that it exists at all.