Saturday, April 23, 2016

North Carolina's 'Bathroom Law' And The Tension of Comfort And Safety

The recent 'bathroom law' in North Carolina has provided the flashpoint for an important question: Should people who were born biologically male or female have a right to use the bathroom or locker room that matches their chosen gender identity?

Generally, proponents of gender-inclusive facilities have two key reasons: the discomfort for both the person and those around them if they are in a bathroom at odds with their appearance, and the danger that may accompany a scenario like that. On the other hand, opponents have two concerns: the unexpected, unwelcome nudity of opposite-sex genitalia (particularly in locker rooms), and the disruption of privacy in a 'safe' room where the expectation is that people are surrounded by peers of the same sex.

There is a lot to be said about this issue, of course.  Currently, most of the focus is on helping transgender people feel comfortable and safe. That's an appropriate concern, but it's incomplete. What about the comfort and safety of women and children? Shouldn't they be considered as well? (1) And are we stuck in an either/or dilemma, or is there a solution?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

"I bet your parents taught you that you mean something, that you're here for a reason. My parents taught me a different lesson, dying in the gutter for no reason at all... They taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to." - Bruce Wayne

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has given critics plenty of reason to rant. As far as the art of film goes, it leaves a lot to be desired (though I must confess, I enjoyed it enough to see it twice). However, my goal is not to critique the movie as art but to look at the some of the worldview messages either embedded or preached in it.

Zach Snyder touched on a number of issues: terrorism, politics, power, genetic engineering and religion, to name a few. The one that stood out to me as the core of the movie had to do with power. 

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It’s been three years since the unveiling of Superman to the world at the end of Man of Steel. Plenty of people are angry about what happened in Metropolis, but far more are in awe of this Kryptonian god. He stops terrorists; he saves people trapped by fire and flood; he carries the space shuttle on his shoulders. There’s just that pesky and increasingly vocal minority that worries that a Man of Steel might not have the morals to match to his muscles. Early on, a Senator voices what many are feeling: “The world has been so caught up with what he can do that no one has asked what he should do.” Not even Superman has a clear perspective on the latter question, and therein lies the problem.

Lex Luthor highlights what he calls the oldest lie in America: “power can be innocent.” Not that this bothers Lex, of course. He’s not concerned that people have power; he’s concerned that people other than himself have more power than he does. After all, Lex knows his own heart, and he assumes others will do with their power what he longs to accomplish. Lex has never known power to be blended with goodness; no wonder the idea of a God who is all-powerful and all-good makes no sense to him. Superman is neither, of course, but he’s the closest thing Lex has seen. The principle still applies. Superman has power; he must be corrupt. And he must be controlled.

While the movie does not do a great job making this plain, Bruce Wayne is a mess. He has given in to depression and isolation. He drinks himself to sleep at night. His crumbling mansion matches his crumbling morality, one which now justifies torturing criminals and savagely attacking gangs. A clearly jaded Alfred notes at one point, “That's how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men... cruel.” Bruce’s response? “Twenty years in Gotham. How many good guys are left? How many stay that way?” Not Bruce Wayne, that’s for sure. “We are criminals,” he tells Alfred. “We’ve always been criminals.”