Never Going Back: The Fight for Marriage Equality

DSC07431“The only reason they [gays and lesbians] want to be legally married is that they want money, money, money.  They want the federal, state and county money that has been set aside for a man and female…They should not be allowed to have it.  Marriage is only between a man and a woman,” says Sandra Osterloh of Imperial, Mo. in the March 28th edition of the Arnold-Imperial Leader.

The United States Supreme Court began hearing arguments this week on one of the most divisive issues in America today, and is expected to rule within the next year, regarding the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, the Defense of Marriage Act, and same-sex marriage.

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Legislation known as DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and limits federal marriage benefits and inter-state recognition to opposite-sex couples.  Proposition 8, a ballot referendum passed by popular vote in 2008, reversed the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow same-sex marriage.  Both pieces of legislation have been highly controversial and the issue of same-sex marriage is one of the most polarizing in the country, particularly among religious communities.

IMG_0135Rev. Betsy Happel of the Kirkwood United Church of Christ said, “Marriage is a property issue.  People who look at legal marriage and think that that’s a moral thing I think are misguided.  When marriage became an institution in our society, women and children were property – back then, this wasn’t about love; this was all about property.”

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The movement toward marriage equality is about several key components.  The major focus before the Supreme Court this week is the right for same-sex couples to be married.  The other, as Rev. Happel suggested, is about property and spousal privilege.

Happel, the Pastor of a church that prides itself on being welcoming, progressive, and relevant said, “In April of 2007, this congregation voted to become open and affirming – Being a pastor who believes that every child is created perfectly and is loved by God, and that everybody has the right to be who they were created to be, authentically, I believe that two people, whether they are same gendered or different gendered, have the right to be in a union that is legally ratified in the United States, and I believe everything that was initiated by Proposition 8 and DOMA is antithetical to that.”

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 Marriage Equality Info

Despite being a progressive religious voice, Rev. Happel admitted that several larger churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Mormon Church, are speaking out against marriage equality and that voices like hers have a more difficult path to travel.

When asked how scripture was being used in the battle against marriage equality, Happel said, “The main divisive issue among Christians today in our country is how to interpret The Bible.  There are two basic camps – one camp is to interpret it literally, and the other camp is to interpret it as profoundly true, but not literally true.”

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“When scripture in the Old Testament was written, it was meant to oppress women and people who did not follow the religious laws of that time.  People who are fearful of others, who are different from them, are using this scripture that was written in a totally different context, to support their argument that there should not be same-gender relationships.”

In 2010, KUCC announced three same-sex ceremonies would take place, the first of which was on April 16, 2011, over which Rev. Happel presided. Happel said there were two reactions, “When that happened [the announcement], we had a couple of family units leave the church.  The second reaction, what happened that day, was amazing and transformative – the spirit of the sanctuary changed that afternoon – and I’ll forever be grateful to them [the congregation] for that.”

“My attitude has always been – if somebody is not supportive of all walks of life, and all sexual orientations – that’s okay, I send you off with our blessing – we’re not going to apologize for it – and we have grown so much because of that, as a congregation.  So we’ve lost a few people, but we’ve taken in so many more.”

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Finally, Happel frowned upon the recent Boy Scouts of America controversy and fears that the Supreme Court may, like the Boy Scouts, table the issue for a period of time.  But she’s hopeful that American sentiment, and “poignant, intellectual, and classy” media (NBC’s The New Normal) that conveys these sentiments, will shine through.  She said, “I think we are at a watershed moment – we’re riding the crest of a wave, and the momentum in the last year and a half has really changed – and we’re never going back.”

Supreme Court convenes for Marriage Equality

marriage equalityToday the United States Supreme Court is in session to begin discussing Marriage Equality.  Where will you stand on this day?  I’m standing on the right side of history.  Love is love.  Live and let live.  I support marriage equality and full-fledged equal rights for every American citizen.

ENTERTAINMENT news: The Magical World of Disney

Disney LogoDisney has been the talk of Tinseltown this past week – from the strong weekend opening of Oz, The Great and Powerful ($79 million) to the announcement that Disney is shutting down their 2-D, hand-drawn animation division.  This week, Disney is adding more fuel to their blazing wildfire: they’re “re-imagining” Beauty and the Beast.  The newest feature in re-imagination-land is being titled The Beast and will utilize Belle’s beau as the central figure in a darker, live-action story.

Did you say “what?” Exactly.

Poor, or less than expected, box-office returns for The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Winnie the Pooh (2011) are being cited for the closure of the 2-D animation department.  Disney’s first black princess earned $267 million worldwide, while Pooh-bear only mustered $33 million in golden honey.  Unfortunately, both are being compared to Tangled (2010), the Rapunzel movie that embraced cutting-edge 3-D animation technology and tallied $590 million in worldwide earnings (nevermind the “new-animation” attempt that was Mars Needs Moms, remember that movie that cost $150 million and made $39 million worldwide?).

Disney’s decision is also largely based on the success of Pixar Animations like the Toy Story franchise, which to date has grossed just under $2 billion worldwide in original and re-release time periods. But will the elimination of the 2-D division allow Disney to carry “the magic” forward in their animated features?

It’s been suggested that Tangled had “it,” but there is a certain sense of nostalgia that will be sacrificed by solely embracing new animation technologies.  The problem won’t be the stories or the characters, they’ll endure the test of time, but the “cutting-edge” technology won’t, unless it’s executed perfectly.  For an example of this, you don’t need to look any further than Mickey Mouse then (ca. 1950) and Mickey Mouse now (ca. 2006).


Sure Mickey looks like the same mouse, but don’t you think he’s lost a little bit of “it?”   Hand-drawn animation, like the works of the classical painters and artists of yesterday, withstands the test of time, whereas the newer animation will cheapen and “discolor” in the wake of new styles and technologies.  It’s too early to tell which animated princess’ story will hold up better, Tiana’s or Rapunzel’s – or is it?  I would suggest that twenty, or even thirty-fifty years from now, people will more fondly remember The Princess and the Frog when compared to Tangled.  When compared side-by-side, The Princess and the Frog has soul and heart – it’s got the Disney-classic musical numbers and the crisp, timeless animated appeal.  Tangled, conversely, is a product of the times – from the dialogue and animation style to the clothing and hair choices.  Sure, it boasts some really fun and memorable characters, like Flynn Rider and Rapunzel herself, and it has that magnificent floating lantern scene/song, but in the long run, it’ll wind up in the Shrek category and look to the future like 1964’s Rudolph looks to us now.

It’s sad to think that even Disney is selling-out to become a profit-minded juggernaut, rather than a place for magic and memories.  It’s trading in its classic appeal for big box-office returns in a watered-down social culture and re-imagining some of its greatest, most enduring stories – which brings me to The Beast.

Beauty and the Beast is arguably one of Disney’s most beloved tales ever told.  “Re-imagining” the story, in live-action, accomplishes what besides allowing Disney to contribute to Hollywood’s re-make/re-boot era? Nothing. In fact, Disney has had only moderate success in this category, judging by 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, which didn’t outperform the original animated classic, or recoup it’s budget.  The Huntsman grossed $155 million (on a $170 million budget) in the United States, compared to the 1937 animated version, which boasts a domestic lifetime total of $184 million (on a $1.5 million budget).

MaleficentNext year, Angelina Jolie lends her star power to the Sleeping Beauty spin-off Maleficent and after that, The Beast will make his way into theaters across America.  Will these live-action fantasies live up to the hype and be able to topple their classic predecessors? It’s monetarily possible, but if Disney’s going to commit to a new direction, one of “re-imagination” and new animation, then they’ll need to work a lot harder to keep the wonder, heart, timelessness, and magic of their movies intact.  Anybody can produce for-profit-garbage – Disney should be above that, they have the ability to produce and inspire imagination and that’s a trait that may be lost if profit continues determining direction.

Look at the current number one movie, for example, Oz, the Great and Powerful – it’s been a critical failure for lacking heart and soul, and for being bland, despite its visual appeal.  An appeal that carried a $215 million production budget.  And even that too, is a re-imagination of a classic from 1939.  Maybe it’s time Disney takes a deep breath and returns to doing what Disney does, sooner rather than later.

ENTERTAINMENT news: Bates Motel & American Horror Story 3

Bates Motel

By now it’s no surprise that classic horror stories and characters are taking over primetime television, just look at the growing list of established or upcoming shows (American Horror Story, Bates Motel, Dracula, Hannibal, The Following, etc.) of the genre.  On March 18, A&E will be premiering Bates Motel, a prequel series that explores the “origins” of Norman Bates.  Bates, portrayed by Anthony Perkins in the 1960 Hitchcock classic Psycho, is one of the most iconic characters of cinema.  Bates Motel stars Freddie Highmore (August Rush, The Art of Getting By) as Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Source Code) Norma Louise Bates/Mother. Recently the first 6-minutes of the series has been released and may now be seen here – will you be watching? 

Bates Motel isn’t the only show generating buzz in the last week, the upcoming third season of the award-winning series American Horror Story has been causing quite the stir.  In recent weeks, speculation has run rampant about the upcoming season, set to premier in October on FX.  Academy Award winning actress Kathy Bates will be joining the cast in a role that will arc in opposition to Jessica Lange’s rumored “glamour” girl character.  Series actress Frances Conroy confirmed the third season will take place in New Orleans, may be set in the mid-1800s, and that Kathy Bates will be playing a real-life “bad, bad woman.”

Delphine LaLaurieAfter Conroy’s interview, speculation about who the woman may be led to the suggestion that Bates may be playing Delphine LaLaurie, known as Madame LaLaurie.  LaLaurie is reputed to have been a Louisiana-born socialite responsible for the torture, mutilation, and mass killing of black slaves in the upper-most room of the historical LaLaurie Mansion, a landmark still standing at the corner of Royal Street and Governor Nichols (formerly Hospital) Street.

Beyond the sketchy, but emerging details of American Horror Story 3, the creators have suggested that there will be a Romeo and Juliette type storyline (like the one from season one between Tate and Violet), in addition to the dueling screen legends.  If speculation turns to truth, the third season of AHS may very well be able to top season two, which would be virtually unheard of.  What other shows successively improve?

-Bobby-james

Feminism Fading: the Rise of Social Media

Feminism Fading

photo feminism1Susan B. Anthony. Gloria Steinem. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Eleanor Roosevelt. Harriet Tubman. Cleopatra. Joan of Arc. Hillary Clinton. Queen Elizabeth. Princess Diana. Boadicea.  Hatshepsut. Audrey Hepburn. Moms. All feminist icons from different eras – all leaders or revolutionaries who have made a change for, and continue to inspire women around the globe – but what effect has social media had on the “entitled generations” of women?

Social networks – i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr – are groups of internet-based applications driven by user-created content and interaction.  Facebook reports that on average, there were 618 million active users per day as of December 2012.  Users are spending as much as one out of every six minutes on social networking.

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Dr. Kay Blalock, professor of history at St. Louis Community College: Meramec said, “We share way too much…and [we have] social media that’s not very social. Women have become, in being empowered, disempowered.”

Dr. Blalock cited the social media presence of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings’ bikinis and backsides, instead of their gold medal beach volleyball victory at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Blalock said, “the media does this…women are so sexualized in everything they do. Susan B. Anthony once said, ‘until women become subjects instead of objects, they’re never going to have any power,’ I think women have become objects again, or have allowed themselves to become objects again…you have a few generations of women who have always had it all, so this idea of what they have had to be fought for is somehow lost.”

Are women, particularly the, “entitled generations,” forgetting the struggle and sacrifices made for their rights?  To compose a list of the most influential figures in women’s history, a poll was distributed on Facebook.  Two women from under the age of forty responded. Kacie Bauman, a biomedical sciences graduate from Maryville University, was offended and stated, “The fact that I’m the only 20 something female that responded to this is concerning…young women today are getting their rights walked upon, and don’t have a single word to say about it.”

fading feminism piktochart

Learn more from Catalyst about Women’s “Firsts”

Silence is a deadly component for any movement and may be a result of an overabundance of information in people’s daily lives, or perhaps it’s the result of what Dr. Blalock identifies as a lack of socialization and development of support systems. According to Dr. Blalock: “I don’t think we know how to do that anymore [build support systems]. We have to talk.  Social media can be used positively, but I think unfortunately, the way most young people, in particular, see it and use it and are aware of it are not those positive ways – I don’t know how that changes.”

photo feminism3Perhaps there’s a sense of invisibility by young people, women in particular.  Dr. Blalock expressed her concern but held out hope, “I think they [young people] have been shut up and shut down for so long they don’t see how it could ever be worth it, which is a really, really bad thing for my generation.  I kind of see it with the fact that there are individuals – women, feminists from the 60s, 70s period who are not connecting as they should with the younger women to really in part the necessity.  I think we have a lack of communication between generations, I think this has to be inter-generational.  You have to have all of those talents and all of those experiences brought into it and reformulate your understanding, but then how you’re going to express that to where it will be understood by various generations.”

Social networks, and blogging, have this appeal, but according to Dr. Blalock, one movement, feminism, isn’t strong enough to support itself. Dr. Blalock said, “One could say, where’s the women’s movement?  Where is a group of activists who are fighting?  The whole idea of feminism is that it’s not just about women, it’s about human rights – that’s what the early feminists were all about, and I think we’ve lost that.  Where are the activists when it comes to rape, violence against women, human trafficking?  Women still don’t get equal pay for equal work, but that’s shifted extensively – they get education, they can go to college, they can get scholarships, they can play sports – you have women who are lawyers and engineers, but the idea of women’s power has become more individualized and has become associated with how one dresses, it’s become associated with sensuality and sexuality.”

Dr. Blalock concludes, “The women’s movement has kind of lost its focus, it’s become more individualistic and more grassroots than a national movement.  I think one person can make a difference. If you are passionate enough about an issue, you have to make a committed effort, not to wait around for something to be done, but do something yourself – form a group of like-minded individuals and start being actors, rather than passively complaining and [use social media to] make a difference.”

Johanna Blakley talks Social Media and the End of Gender

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Kay Blaylock (language disclaimer):