A Media Comment: Animated Feature ≠ “Kid’s Movie”

"Hiccup" from DreamWorks' How To Train Your Dragon 2

“Hiccup” from DreamWorks’ How To Train Your Dragon 2

Have you seen DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2 yet? If not, do so – it’s a fantastic animated feature that, in a roundabout way, is the basis for this post.  While I was surfing Facebook, I saw Moviepilot Animation’s article:  So Let’s Talk About How To Train Your Dragon’s Gay Character.  Upon completing the article, I read through a few of the responses, but the top rated response said:

“He is not gay…my god its. A kids movie..people are such idiots trying to make something out of nothing…get a hobby!”

While those of you who know me may think this will focus on the emergence of openly gay characters in animated movies, it won’t.  Trust me, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a research article analyzing gay characters in animated movies.  That project looks more like a go every day.  Instead, I’m going to comment on why ANIMATED FEATURE does not equal KID’S MOVIE.

This is something that’s bothered me immensely over the years, leaving me curious to know:  Why do so many people say animated movies are just for kids? Is it the bright and bold color, the catchy musical numbers (ahem, Frozen - I know, I should just “Let It Go”), or is it simply because it’s animated? A cartoon.  I can’t figure it out.

Now, if you’re like me, you love animated features – and you like to go to the theater while schools are in session, so that you may enjoy them without all the chatterbox-children around.  But doesn’t it just so happen that kids are almost always on break when the animated features flood the box office? It does. Then, you go to the theater not thinking much of it and surprise! A million kids.  The kids aren’t the problem though, it’s their chaperoning adult(s), right?

I generally make it a point to see every animated feature that comes out.  I’ve loved them since I was a child – and since the emergence of Pixar, the ante’s been upped!  Many more animated features are sophisticated and contain social commentaries (ex. openly gay characters emerging in animated features), subtle humor and storylines for adults.  The [mostly] breathtaking animation is still there, but that’s for the enjoyment of everyone right? So I can’t figure out why when I walk into a theater full of kids I’m shot a dirty look from time to time.  Am I not allowed to see an animated feature in theaters if I don’t have children?  Because I’m seeing the movie alone, am I weird? …or worse, a suspected pedophile?

On countless occasions, I’ve had friends tell me they wanted to see whatever the newest animated feature was, but they can’t go alone because “it’d be weird.” Why is it weird? Why can grown men or women not go see an animated movie alone? Who says and what authority do they have? Then I think, it all comes back to this idea that animated features are “Kids’ Movies.”

Newsflash: They’re not.

Animated features, like all other Hollywood productions are rated in accordance with the MPAA.  Generally, these movies are rated G or PG (you can explore all that who, how, etc. here), but that alone doesn’t mean the movie is strictly for kids. When I envision kid-centric entertainment, I think of programming like Baby Einstein, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, just to list some obvious (TV) examples.

Carl and Ellie from Disney-Pixar's Up

Carl and Ellie from Disney-Pixar’s Up

Have you seen the Shrek or Ice Age franchises? I don’t think I need to elaborate on all of that adult humor.  What about more subtle movies like Disney-Pixar’s Up?  The entire Carl-Ellie relationship is adult-oriented, as is the “Married Life” montage.  Sure, it’s brightly colored and full of wondrous imagination and imagery, but Up‘s core (its heart) appeals to both children and adults.  My point is, these animated features are made for the enjoyment of everyone.

By design, animated features resonate with each of us differently.  They could inspire a child to become an animator.  They are proponents of imagination (children may want to be ruling princesses or explorers imagining great adventures of their own).  In the same way kids are inspired, adults may find humor, they may reminisce of days gone by, or they may be inspired themselves.  An adult may write that book or screenplay they always wanted to write, or to take the adventure they’d always imagined (I went to New Orleans in 2012 because of The Princess and the Frog), or just to laugh and love as much as the animated feature suggests.  Through the lens of adulthood we “see” and take away more from animated features, we understand their souls and not just the pretty pictures.

Now please, don’t think my last statement discredits a child’s ability to understand a movie (or any piece of media or art).  I’m the last person that would do that.  In fact, in my own endeavors, I find myself fighting for the kids, saying they deserve complexity, subtlety and perfection in the media they may consume.  What I am saying, is that adults have a greater understanding (sometimes) and that just because it’s animated doesn’t mean it’s not for them too.

Call it a Family Movie or better yet, just call it what it is – an animated feature or an animated movie – but unless it’s directly stated to be so, don’t call it a “Kid’s Movie.”  Recognize they’re made for the enjoyment of everyone – take away the weirdness and the odd looks.  Give everyone the chance to be inspired, just because you’re grown doesn’t mean you don’t need it.   Go watch any one of your childhood favorites now, and as Beauty and The Beast suggests:

“There may be something there that wasn’t there before.”

I’d like to know, is there a movie you feel bridges the gap between childhood and adulthood?  What are some of your favorite animated moments or quotes?  How about your favorite animated characters and why? What themes do you see in animated features that appeal to adults?  Let’s talk in the comments section!

A Media Comment: Hollywood’s New Obsession with Bizarre Sex

Sex

Penis.  Vagina.  Queer Sex.

When each of the above words are visualized in cinema or television in the United States, harsher scrutiny is applied by American censors (MPAA, FCC).  It’s something film and media students have discussed amongst themselves and in their classes for years.   How can a person be more permissibly tortured and graphically killed in a franchise like SAW (2004-2010) beneath an R-rating, while “a scene of explicit sexual content” in a film like Blue Valentine (2010) warrants an NC-17? This well-documented dilemma has been discussed and contested multiple times, yet European films are reputed to be more sexually liberal – that is, until recently.

Eva Green responds to MPAA vs. Sin City Poster controversy

American movies and television are beginning to embrace sex more freely, but violence isn’t tapering off.  Instead, what’s happening is a blending of sex and violence and audiences are witnessing controversial, discomforting, and sometimes erotic scenes or images.  Below I’ll present to you several recent instances that illustrate America’s new-found obsession with bizarre sex.

Let’s begin first with a title making headway with our new fixation:  American Horror Story (2011-).

Fans of FX’s original series will immediately recognize any number of scenes depicting controversial sex.  Season one, “Murder House,” repeatedly teases and shows a man donning a bondage suit.  The man is the source of Vivien Harmon’s (Connie Britton) psychological torment and eventual rape.  Then, the significantly darker season two, “Asylum,” provides viewers with even more controversial “love.” From the nearly instant death of Leo Morrison (Adam Levine) mid-fellatio to start the season, to Shelley’s (Chloe Sevigny) sexual advances toward Nazi doctor Arthur Arden (James Cromwell), to Sister Jude’s (Jessica Lange) fantasy with Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes) – American Horror Story: Asylum upped the ante for bizarre TV sex – then came “Coven.”

Queenie and the Minotaur

Queenie and the Minotaur (AHS: Coven)

According to creator Ryan Murphy, season three was tonally lighter – but Coven wasn’t devoid of bizarre sex.  If anything, Coven pushed the boundaries further.  Viewers of the show will recall several edgy instances of sex, most notably Queenie’s (Gabourey Sidibe) with the Minotaur (Ameer Baraka).  As she encouraged the mythical beast to mount her, Queenie motions her hands to lift her skirt and begs the line, “Don’t you wanna love me?”  Additionally, the season featured a satanic, snake-laden pregnancy ritual between Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson) and husband Hank (Josh Hamilton), and an implied/lightly featured incestuous relationship between Kyle (Evan Peters) and his mother that was interwoven with an on-going necrophilia-ménage-a-tois between Kyle, Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) and Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts).

American Horror Story isn’t the only show to present necrophilia or incest in primetime, either.  These themes figure prominently into two other top-rated shows, one airing on FOX, the other on A&E.

Season two of FOX’s The Following (2013-) features Sam Underwood as twin brothers Luke and Mark.  The brothers calculatingly murder and dine with female corpses amidst sexual suggestion and homoerotic, incestuous undertones.  What is the basis for their strong connection to one another? Yes, they’re fighting for the same cause as serial killers and rapists, but is it normal for these brothers to be intimate together?  What about their unyielding commitment to one another?  Luke and Mark’s connection is suggestively deeper than brotherhood, though it’s not overstated and was downplayed after the first few episodes.

Norma and Norman Bates

Norma and Norman Bates (Bates Motel)

A&E’s Bates Motel (2013-) poses a similar question – this time about the relationship between mother and son.  For two seasons, Bates Motel has been teasing Norman’s (Freddie Highmore’s) obsession with his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga).  Season one featured a surprising, but inevitable (perhaps “predictable” would be a better word) kiss and awkward relationship between the two.  Season two pushes the envelope a little further by not only depicting more shared kisses, but by placing the characters in bed (non-sexually) together on different occasions, and by revealing a previous instance of incest – the rape of Norma.  The entire premise of Bates Motel is to explore the psyche of Norman Bates pre-Psycho (1960), so naturally, the relationship will only intensify.

Artemisia and Themistocles

Artemisia and Themistocles (300: Rise of an Empire)

Intensity’s become a key factor in both television and cinematic sex.  Take the movie 300: Rise of an Empire (2014) for example.  The sex scene between Persian naval leader Artemisia (Eva Green) and the Grecian Themistocles (Sullivan Stapleton) is one of the most intense I’ve ever seen.  Mortal enemies on opposing armies, the two come together to forge a deal and end up engaging in a fierce scene where seduction is filled with danger, passion is replaced by power and violence becomes empowering.  From this – what appears as a psychosexual game – allows Artemisia finds superiority against her male counterpart.

While I’m not saying Hollywood hasn’t exploited female sexuality to “empower” women in TV or movies, I am saying that there’s been a shift in the way women have presented and owned their sexuality.  In 300: Rise of an Empire, Artemisia exists as a formidable force beyond her sexuality before and after the scene – and during the scene, she was always in control.  Take the Starz series Spartacus(2010-2013) for another example.  Creator Steven S. DeKnight gave the series several strong, empowered female leads – notably Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) and Ilithyia (Viva Bianca).  Both women existed in the aristocratic echelon of society – and while they employed seduction and sex to further their own political agendas, they also used sex for pleasure, to objectify men (their property), and each other.

Ilithyia and Spartacus

Spartacus and Ilithyia (Spartacus: Blood and Sand)

Spartacus’ most intriguing (and relevant) sex comes during season one (“Blood and Sand”), after Ilithyia oversteps her bounds in the eyes of Lucretia.  Ilithya desires one of Lucretia’s slaves, but the one Lucretia delivers only ensures humiliation.  Ilithyia’s sex scene with Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) delivers eroticism and fantasy to the viewer, but also on the murkiness becoming common-place in TV/movie sex.  The scene is immediately followed by two acts of violence that increase in severity and gruesomeness.  The erotic nature of draped sheets, gold body paint and secretive masks co-exists with themes of deception, humiliation, anonymity, and shame, yet the moment exists to create (or to inspire?) fantasy and allure.  No longer are men using women regularly for sexual exploitation – women are now using their sexuality against each other and men.

Deceptive “use” is a keystone figuring prominently into another primetime show airing on FX – The Americans (2013-).  The Americans introduced us to Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings, two covert KGB agents in America during the 1980s.  In disguise, throughout seasons one and two, Phillip and Elizabeth both employ sexual activity to gain information from the US government.  The twist comes during season one when we repeatedly see Elizabeth disregard sex and harbor no emotional attachments, whereas Phillip becomes entangled in a faux marriage to FBI secretary Martha (Alison Wright).  The double life begins progressively affecting Phillip, becoming noticeable later (in season two) to Elizabeth.

After involving herself out of necessity, Elizabeth learns about Phillip as a lover to Martha, and asks Phillip to become “Clark,” his alter-ego with her for a night.  The scene is riddled with discomfort – Phillip is visibly frustrated and Elizabeth is left in pain, crying on the bed.  Here we have another instance where deception becomes a violent and emotionally damning sexual act – and we have a sexual relationship (Martha-Clark) built entirely on false pretense and the objectification of a woman.  The irony is that the same show sexually empowers and demeans women and men.  Is this depiction real? Are people this easily manipulated by sex?

Malkina and Ferrari

Malkina mounts the Ferrari (The Counselor, 2013)

There’s a particular scene in the 2013 movie The Counselor, starring Cameron Diaz, that addresses my last statement and question.  While Malkina (Diaz), an affiliate to the Mexican drug cartel, is empowered through cunning, association, and sex, she is demeaned by what could be considered one of the most bizarre sexual acts to ever be featured in a movie.  I’m talking about the moment she mounts a Ferrari and does the splits on the windshield, to seduce her boyfriend Reiner (Javier Bardem).  Interesting to note however, Reiner finds the moment less erotic and more unnerving and intimidating.

This moment and Diaz’s entire performance are powerful.  She’s continuously revered for her feminist traits, including intelligence, independence and boldness (which are stated overtly throughout the movie), but also for her incredible sex appeal.  All of these traits combine to create a dynamic and unpredictable female lead.  So are people easily manipulated through sex?  The answer seems to be that there are great powers in act of seduction – and if you’ve seen the end of The Counselor you know the answer to the question.

But while a woman like Malkina does exist, so too does a woman like Law & Order: SVU‘s (1999-) Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay).  Since 1999, Detective Benson has been a beacon of hope for strong female leads – in television and cinema.  She’s been portrayed as an intelligent woman not reliant upon her sexuality and as an equal member of the male dominated police force.  She’s risen through the ranks and now exists as the top-billed character and face of the show as it enters it sixteenth season.  Detective Benson has done well for herself – until being confronted by an intense arc that sees her victimized by serial rapist and murderer William Lewis (Pablo Schreiber).

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit - Season 15

Olivia Benson as a victim (Law & Order: SVU)

Lewis, one of SVU‘s most terrifying villains, is known to torture girls before raping and killing them.  He is eroticized by the helplessness of women – Benson becomes his strongest, most resilient target – his prize.  In the squad room, Lewis’ objective  is clear:  he wants his victims to fight for life, to resist him – it feeds his desire for power.  He tortures them (forces them to consume alcohol, burns them with cigarettes, and terrifies them with guns).  The last moments of these women’s lives are hell – but the Benson-Lewis saga was successful enough that it survived beyond the season fourteen finale and season fifteen premier and carried throughout all of season fifteen.

Why was SVU‘s victimization of Benson such a successful storyline?  Was it because the crime-procedural had an actual arc? Or was it because of Schreiber and Hargitay’s amazing work together?  It could be either of those things, but it could also be because fans liked seeing Olivia Benson in peril, fighting for her dignity and for her life.  The question “Will Lewis rape Benson?” loomed over all of their interactions, especially Benson’s captivity.  Fans cringed at the idea, but had to know how or if Benson would survive William Lewis.  Could she carry on as a detective (and later sergeant) if she were to have been raped by Lewis?  Could this man undo one of TV’s most powerful women?

In some odd way, Benson in peril made for compelling television – and the “will she or won’t she” be raped intrigue caused people to tune in. Despite the dynamics, the fact that Lewis’ sexual obsessions and crimes warranted a season-long arc is noteworthy.  His lust blended with violence, and his appetite for rape and death was unnerving, but the character “William Lewis” was a perfect fit for the media’s bizarre new obsession.

UPDATE: On June 6, Hayley Krischer with the Huffington Post wrote an article about the “rape” of Maleficent and how rape culture has permeated Disney movies

Dorian Gray

Dorian Gray (Penny Dreadful)

More recently, on Showtime’s freshman horror series Penny Dreadful (2014-) we find the character Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney).  While the series is just beginning, and its unknown to viewers where Gray is headed sexually or otherwise, we’ve already learned a bit about his twisted infatuations.  Through staging, we become aware that Gray is at least bisexual, he’s infatuated with beauty, that he has an affinity for lust and orgies, and that he isn’t phased by people coughing up blood during intercourse (that seemed to excite him further).  We’ve also been introduced to his tactics to achieve his desires – notably the scene where he seduces Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) by using a special elixir that inspires a homosexual transgression in Victorian-era London.

Dorian Gray and Ethan Chandler (Penny Dreadful)

Dorian Gray and Ethan Chandler (Penny Dreadful)

It is interesting to note that in 2014, while America is still absurdly sensitive to sex, we find such bizarre instances of sex in so many period pieces like Penny Dreadful (and Spartacus, 300: Rise of an Empire, The Americans).  What is it about these times that inspires creators or writers to visualize these societies as sexually explorative and free?  Are these interpretations simply fanaticized – or is there merit to the ideas – were those times more provocative than our own?  What’s the comment being made toward current society – if these were the sexual attitudes in ancient Greece, Victorian London, or the 1980s?

Perhaps the 2013 movie Her could shed some light on our current state of affairs.  Her offers the comment that our society is less-socialized and less interactive, despite being more “social” in a cyber fashion.  In our digital age, online dating is popularized, sexting is a norm, and sexual necessities are more easily fulfilled alone (by phone, internet, magazine, erotica novel, etc.).  While Her is a gorgeous cinematic achievement, it perhaps offers one of the more bizarre love stories of all – about a man, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), who falls in love and has a pseudo-sexual relationship with an operating system named Samantha (Scarlett Johansson).  Is this contemporary love?  Can this instant companionship replace physical desire or touch?  What is the capability for fulfillment and happiness?

If there’s one positive to Her‘s bizarre sexuality, it’s that the element of violence is removed, but at what cost?  Theodore is physically lonely – he’s withdrawn and suffers from depression.  Is an operating system a suitable replacement for a human? Or is the comment being made by Spike Jones’ feature that we need people to be totally fulfilled – and to feel love?  This question, I believe, is posed in Her and I think the overall message affirms that we do need people to love.  We do need touch and intimacy.

As I’ve illustrated, the current media climate is welcoming, and the censors seem to be softening, with respect to sex and eroticism in cinema and television.  However, the cost for increased instances of sex is that they’re often accompanied by violence (rough sex, demeaning sex, rape) or are so bizarre in nature they’d be considered disturbing (necrophilia, incest, bestiality) to a majority of viewers.  Despite featuring more sex (of all types, heterosexual and homosexual), the media seems to be lacking healthy, passionate, loving, or sensual instances of sex.  We’re trading those intimate and deep-rooted desires for harsh images and sometimes cruel seduction and saying “That’s what I want.”

Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)

Mark Ruffalo and Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart)

What’s worse is that each instance of homosexuality I’ve mentioned has been accompanied by a deviant behavior (deception in Penny Dreadful, and suggestive undertones of incest and necrophilia in The Following).  It’s been nearly a decade since Brokeback Mountain revolutionized American cinema and television – and the passionate, loving, and sensual scenes are still fleeting.  Take the powerful HBO movie The Normal Heart (2014), the scene filled with passion between Ned (Mark Ruffalo) and Felix (Matt Bomer) is as fleeting as the flashback depicting their first “hookup.” Why is love still unequal?  What is so fearful about two men or two women being depicted in a moment of true love or passion?

At the same time, what is so threatening about a woman being sexy – and in control of a heterosexual scene?  Why is there still preference to the missionary position – and why can’t there just be stories about love?  Why does everything either have to be categorized as bizarre or follow the romantic comedy formula that presents what I call “soap opera sex?”  American media’s journey into the sexual realm is beginning to intensify.  I just hope sooner, rather than later, we can start displaying love as it should be – not as something that still brings shame, embarrassment, or that disturbs us.  Some stories will warrant the types of bizarre sex prevalent in media – but some stories should just be about passionate freedom.  Don’t you agree?

Is there a show, a movie, or a scene from either that you’d consider “bizarre sex?”  What about something you consider to be about “passionate freedom,” and love? Let me know in the comments section below.  Let’s explore this idea together.  Thanks for reading.

Michael Sam: The Draft & “The Kiss”

Michael Sam Draft Kiss

NOTE:  I would like to first begin by saying that I believe the clip of Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend after being drafted into the NFL runs too long. I believe the media’s extended take and subsequent, unedited airing created an artificial feeling that some have construed as a “gay agenda” publicity stunt.

Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams.  By current media standards, this news is ancient history, but the discussion Michael Sam and his boyfriend created upon receiving “the call” is still being heavily discussed across all forms of media. Did he cry too much, smile too little or not display enough enthusiasm?  Nope.  He shared a kiss with his boyfriend, oops.

Michael SamIn early February, I wrote about the world Michael Sam would have to face – I said he’d pay a price for “coming out” and positioning himself to become the NFL’s first openly gay athlete.  I was right – as I predicted, Sam has an uphill battle ahead of him.  He has his detractors, and he always will, no matter how good he is on the field.  They’ll make hateful and hurtful comments about his sexual orientation first – and those comments will disregard Sam’s personhood entirely.  Blind hatred will be unfounded – but it will become part of the asterisk by Michael Sam’s name.

This week alone, Sam has come under fire for “the kiss.” Some have it found “disturbing,” others have said “It’s [homosexuality] being pushed in faces.” Michael Sam’s celebratory moment garnered anti-gay sentiments on social media from various people, including other NFL players, who’ve subsequently been fined and ordered to sensitivity training. Various religious followers, politicians and ordinary conservatives think their First Amendment rights are in jeopardy, under attack by the “gay agenda” – one even mocks “Am I allowed to comment on issues that pertain to homosexuality if I don’t echo the views of our masters?” – and others, in a defeatist fit, walk off set declaring “I’m done.”

Michael Sam has been the subject of as much negativity as praise this week – described using various adjectives first, he’s been mocked, and his supporters have been labeled hypocrites.  Really, some of the things said about Michael Sam could be categorized in our digital era as “cyber bullying.” Then again, cyber bullying has juvenile implications, right? Right. Adults have thrown around derogatory terms (ex. faggot) and have used their children as shields (“my children shouldn’t have to watch”) as they rush to cower behind the First Amendment. Some (a former soldier) have gone as far as to say (paraphrasing) “I defended this country, I can say what I want – and you’re free to think I’m wrong because I served to give you that right.”

Flawed logic, like that of the former soldier’s (after all, he fought to defend some rights, not all?), is the basis for much of the Sam critique.  People claim it’s their right to publicly denounce and dehumanize Michael Sam.  It’s their right to condemn his lifestyle and to make comments that could damage his soul, or have an emotional impact on those close to him (his partner or mother).  Then, when Sam supporters come to his defense, cries of “hypocrisy” sound like alarms.  When fines are levied, suspensions are dealt and sensitivity is suggested/required, then it becomes “What has happened to America? Where is my freedom?”

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What has happened to America, a place founded on freedom? This is a place where blacks were persecuted and enslaved for the color of their skin, a place where women once didn’t have a voice – and were thought of as property.  Now, it’s a place where people like Michael Sam aren’t welcome?  It’s a place where people vehemently defend their “rights” while seeking to strip people of or to keep others from their own?  Case and point, some conservatives cry “hypocrisy” when their hatred is censored, they clutch their constitution in one hand, their Bible in the other, and claim they’re under attack – yet, where’s that defense of freedom for the woman who can’t marry her lifelong partner, for the loving men who are restricted from co-parenting an adopted child, or for the football player who kisses his boyfriend?  Why aren’t they equally as free?

It’s a pot and kettle story that rears its ugly head time and time again.  “My rights – and religion – are under attack because I don’t support the ‘gay agenda’.” People who say things like this, are also people that vote against marriage equality, that don’t support homosexual co-parenting, yet they’re against abortion, contraceptives, and sex education.  They don’t want the “gay agenda” in their face, yet they pull various quotes from The Bible out of context, apply contemporary thought, and push those beliefs into the faces of others.  These people promote messages of why alternative lifestyles are wrong – why LGBT people are damned to (and will burn in) hell – why they’re an abomination.  All the while, their message is this:  LGBT people are less than us – they don’t deserve the same rights.

This hatred is thought to be automatically free, but again, here’s another instance flawed logic.  Not all speech is free. Hate Speech is not protected speech.  Defined as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or other traits” that leads to imminent hate violence is criminal.  Hate speech prosecution is a hard sell, and so it’s loosely enforced, but this simply means there’s a fine line between protected and not.   There could come a perfect storm – a series or public record of hateful comments, a tragedy born of hate, an ambitious prosecutor with just enough evidence (tweets maybe?), and a sympathetic jury – and the First Amendment no longer offers protection, because what’s materialized is now a hate crime.

What is said teeters atop a slippery slope just waiting for the fall.  Not to mention, what is stated publicly may be in direct conflict with a company or organization’s belief or mission – and could result in disciplinary action (ex. fines, sensitivity training).  Then again, once disciplinary action happens, cries of “hypocrisy” and “freedom of speech” will resume and could accompany a lawsuit.

Is that world we live in?  Is that America?  Perhaps we’d all do well to remember the Thumperian Principle, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

When cameras cut to Michael Sam during the draft, and saw him standing there with his boyfriend, couldn’t any person with a brain deduce that a kiss between the two was a possibility? For those that “don’t want their children seeing that,” couldn’t you change the channel?  Or was it the idea of having an explanatory conversation with your child that was frightening?  For those of you that were “disturbed,” are you equally as disturbed by any number of heterosexual kisses you may have seen during the previous drafts or Super Bowl victories? For those who were “offended,” how do you think Michael Sam feels when you qualify and categorize him as “the gay football player” or refer to him using derogatory terms like “faggot?”

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So some are offended, and their rights are under attack.  Well, what about Michael Sam and his rights? To those of you who’ve made hateful remarks about Michael Sam (or even other member of the LGBT community) – to those of you who speak out in protest of “the gay agenda,” I say this: Your messages of hatred, while you are entitled to them, are not acceptable. You’re learning that your archaic, hateful views and comments are increasingly becoming unwelcome.  It’s not okay to categorize a person because of their sexual orientation, but most importantly, it’s entirely unacceptable to to dehumanize a person because of a minor difference.  It is not okay. People are people first. None of the rest really matters, does it? As our President, Barack Obama, once said, “It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or who you love…”

Tweet about Michael Sam - ObamasThe times are changing for the better.  The future is coming – and some of us are working to create a more accepting, unified future for generations to come.  There will be a day when a man kisses a man without people looking on with disdain, when homosexual co-parenting is a norm, and when all people are free to be who they were born to be and can love whoever they love. That future is a picture of a world where people are equal.  As Obama said, “I believe we can seize that future.”

It’s time to let the future rise and to leave the archaic, unfounded views where they belong – in the past.

 

“The Adventures…” resume – a personal story of my day

Last night, before I drifted off to sleep I said a brief prayer.  I asked for Grandma Sarah to visit me – or send me a sign in a dream; she did.

I dreamed I was waiting a table – the bill totaled $25.  The guests left me $17.  When I woke I remembered two things: I lost money and the number 17.  I immediately began to decode the message (using Dream Moods, a site I’ve used/trusted for nearly a decade.  As it turns out, message received).

The number 17 represented “soul” and losing money meant that in my waking life I’ve lost ambition, self-esteem, and am experiencing unhappiness.  Recognizing all three “symptoms,” and their direct impact on my “soul,” I knew I needed to spend today enjoying some my passions, simple pleasures in life really.  I went for a hike (something I’d been meaning to do all summer), took pictures (you can see right below – then continue reading), and went to spend time with a project I’ve been working on for the last six years(!).

In 2007, following the death of my Grandma Sarah, I began working on a book titled The Adventures of Coffee M. Monkey and Sarah.  The story began as a children’s story/book.  In 2010, after having completed four books in my “Seussian” series, I decided I wanted to scrap it all and adapt a novel.  A year later, dissatisfied with the direction of the book, I scrapped that too – and started over (again).  Since then, I’ve slowly worked toward the novel’s (known) conclusion.

Today I was in search of inspiration, or an immediate “reawakening.”  Along the way, I was surrounded by familiar, loving voices (Mom, Aunt Charlene), saw familiar faces and made new acquaintances.  I spent time pouring through the first two chapters of The Adventures… making notes and asking questions – all in an effort to make this the best story I can possibly create.

I said once Coffee M. Monkey is my window to the world.” Today, that seemed true – it seemed real.  My goal for the story has always been for it to be an American classic, for it to embody the essence of the people, and the woman, who’ve inspired the story, and for it to be the basis of an animated feature film – all things I love.

Then I came across a quote – and thought “this must be an extension from my dream into my waking life” (a key theme in my novel).  The quote contained wisdom my Grandma Sarah would have possessed and offered to me:

Winnie the Pooh“When you’re filled with WONDER, the world is a wonderful place to be.” -Winnie the Pooh

… I feel ambitious.  I feel like my soul has been reinvigorated – and so I’ve worked.  To illustrate this, I quickly created a “first look” into one of the scenes from Chapter One (“The Hills of Christmas”) – one of my favorite ideas from the entire novel.  What it means shall remain a mystery, but now you can see, I have been inspired – and now The Adventures… resume.

The Hills of Christmas (c) 2013. Bobby James.