Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A perfect "Wife Swap"

I normally don't watch TV shows like "Wife Swap." As most of you should know, or will know, as more of these media-related blogs come out, I usually watch things involving swords, spaceships, soldiers, or superheroes, but I was surfing through the channels after the News Hour on PBS and I saw a woman in a room filled with swords, dragons, and other fantasy things.

It turned out that this was an episode of "Wife Swap," ( which actually did a recruitment drive at the Big Apple Convention last November. They toook a "perfect wife" from Kentucky and swapped her with a professional woman with a family of ghost hunters in Illinois. The Kentuckian lived in a family where she did all the work around the house while the husband went hunting and the daughters did whatever they wanted, and the stepdaughter did not get along with the dad. The Illinoisian went to work every day and her husband stayed at home and did everything around the house. For a week each wife had to live as the other wife had.

In both cases the women could not stand it. The Kentucky family expected the wife to do everything, cooking, cleaning, picking up dicarded cloithes, getting the kids ready for school, etc. The Illinois dad insisted on doing all the cooking and cleaning, even selecting the wife's clothes before she went to work in the office. The Illinois family was also vastly more educated than the Kentucky wife, and claimed to be psychic, and she felt very ignorant, even intimidated, in their presence.

By the end of the week both wives had had enough. When it was their turn to set the rules of the house, they insisted that things go the exact opposite. The Illinois husband would go to work, using his psychic abilities to help detectives solve crimes, and she would insist that they use no big words, like "inclusive." The Kentucky family would pick up after themselves, do their own laundry, and the husband would wash the dishes.

These rules met with mixed success. Then the second parts of the "changes" kicked in. The Illinois son, who had actually called the Kentucky wife "unintelligent," was sent on a blind date with a simple country girl. The Kentucky husband and his stepdaughter (who had much unreconciled hostility, had to role-play being each other to see what it was like.

The boy actually had a good time and thought the girl was an interesting person, but found out that he had hurt her feelings by being so insensitively smarter than her. The psychic dad found immediate success and fulfillment in work with a detective agency. The dad and stepdaughter realized how much they were hurting each other and how much they actually loved each other. The Kentucky family started helping the wife with the tasks they had always let her do.

In the end, the wives returned to their families and the two couples met and post-mortemed their experiences. In both cases, the couples were brought to tears. The Illinois dad realized how much he missed being appeciated and fulfilled the way work at the detective agency made him feel that way. The Illinois wife realized that her family needed her at home helping around the house and showing affection to her loved ones. The Kentucky dad realized how much hard work it is to do what he had always considered "women's work," and becaused he loved his wife, would be a better husband, and a better man, by helping, and not taking it for granted. The Kentucky wife realized that she should not let the family let her do all the work, and that it was actually better to stand up for therself, because she loved them.

My god, that was so frickin' perfect. Why can't all the relationship imbalances in our lives be resolved like this?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Thoghts about Golden Compass

"The Golden Compass" was a "big event movie" by all standards. It had massive media push, a first-rate cast, cutting-edge special effects, and an incredible display at the San Diego Comic Con. By all appearances, it seemed like it would be reaching for the same audience as "The Chronicles of Narnia." It presented a world of early-20th century technology and culture with fantastic creatures and young children on an amazing journey.

But the buzz about the movie was that it was based on a book that was an anti-religious answer to "Narnia." Now I will admit right here that I do not read as many of these epic fantasy novels as some people do. Lately all my reading has by necessity had to be about Captain Marvel, comic book history, and American social history (to see why, go to my website My big reading years for fantasy and sci-fi were in High School, when I worked my way through the Foundation, 2001, and Dune series. I started "The Fellowshiop of the Ring" in 7th grade but found it hard to get into somewhere around the Inn of the Prancing Pony. I read a lot of medieval and Arthurian literature after high schoool due to my involvement in the Society for Creative Anachronism and some courses in college. So I have not read Narnia, Compass, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter or most other famous and popular book series that everyone else seems to have these days.

"The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" was read to mne in 3rd grade, though, and I do go to most fantasy movies when they come out. I read much of the criticism, and engage in discussions with fans and active readers of these series. I am aware that Narnia was a Christian parable, that Aslan represented Jesus Christ etc.

I am not a Christian, and am critical of certain effects that religious faith has on society. I have seen dogma get in the way of everything from simply having a good time to scientific inquiry to life-saving medicine. I have also seen faith unite people and inspire them to suffer through adversity and do deesds of great good. I also recognize that the story of Jesus fulfills many of the hallmarks of a Campbellian universal hero. The return from death, near death, or seeming death of a great and noble warrior/leader/king/hero is always a crowd-pleaser. Therefore, I can enjoy Narnia as such a magical fantasy adventure.

If the Golden Compass was a story that critiques religion and promotes science, that point was kind of lost in the translation to the silver screen. The establishment of certain story elements, such as everyone having an animal that represented their soul, talking polar bears, flying sorceresses, the seemingly magical "dust" that connected universes, and the McGuffin of the title, the Golden Compass itself, all set up a fantasy world where science as we know it did not apply. Thereofre when the religious establishment in the world of the film tried to stifle scientific exploration of "dust," it seemed as much like a coflict of the state religion against the true faith as much as anything else.

The rest of the movie fulfilled all the requirements of a Campbellian hero journey, and a magical child's adventure, that any science vs. religion debate was just lost.

That having been said, the writing felt a little stilted and unrealistic. I mean would you really trust someone who came along and gave you all that exposition that Sam Elliot gave when he meet the girl? The repeated special effect of the use of the Compass go tiresome. The Polar Bear fight was awesome, though.

First post

Hey folks. I have wanted to share my thoughts about the various medeia that the Big Apple Convention is involved in, including comic books, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and pop culture, TV shows, movies, pro wrestling, literature, websites, games, live-action role playing, etc. So here it is.