Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Vampires, and Donald Trump: a Theological Discussion

I read comic books. Regularly. Granted, my leaning in comic taste is towards social commentary and the obscure, so Batman and Superman aren’t my favorites. I’ve read comics about each of them and watched their movies, but neither is really a personal favorite. I should also disclose that I have a bias for the overtly good. The overwhelmingly good. The characters who would never use one of the unforgivable curses, regardless of how much sense it would make to use them. Yes, I am mixing my genres, but with Harry Potter walking to his death, sacrificing himself to save others, I think he probably fits into this discussion as well as anyone does.

I’m pretty proud of myself for, up until now, restraining from commenting on or even sharing the comments of others on, the current political climate. However, I’m going to try to bring together Superman, Batman, Donald Trump, Jesus, and a few others in one ridiculous blog post.

Let’s start with superheroes in general. Superheroes exist because humanity wants there to be superheroes. There is/was/always will be some sort of hole in the human heart that superheroes fill. I believe that heart hole is a fear that humans are the epitome of existence, and there is no one out there greater than we are to rescue us when things get bad. Superheroes replace that fear with hope.

Superman is the original superhero. Of course, that’s debatable – just ask Google. But, for our purposes, we’re going to consider him to be the first superhero. He entered the stage sort of in the midst of WW2 ish. Superman is superior to humanity in ALL ways, yet he lived as a human. He concerned himself with human concerns, and was, for all intents and purposes, Jesus. He was both human and god. He was completely selfless, sacrificing his own wants/needs to save people who didn’t even fully appreciate him. He never wavers in his goodness or tries to make the ends justify the means. Of course, the cannon does include evil superman stories, but those exist because they are distinctly NOT Superman. Sidenote: Superman also has some obvious Moses in him, but I’m going to ignore that for the purposes of this post.

Batman is the embodiment of everything Americans want to be. He’s rich. He’s athletic. He has the coolest of toys. He’s got a sidekick and a butler. He’s single-handedly populated Arkham Asylum with the baddies he’s defeated. It’s okay that Batman is dark and tragic (aka depressing), because he’s ultimately protecting the rest of us. I’ve been told that Batman is superior to Superman, because he is human and vulnerable, and therefore, it’s more badass that he wins fights, because his natural advantage over most baddies is negligible in contrast to Superman’s enormous advantage in most fights.

I’ve always hated Batman.

While I admired Heath Ledger’s performance, among others, in the Batman cannon, I’ve always hated that Batman is the anti-hero. He is what I would probably be if I were a superhero/superheroine; I’d be hurt by someone very early on in my story, and then I’d exact justice in an attempt to keep others from feeling what I’d felt. Batman is indisputably human… except that he’s a vampire. I’m not even going to qualify that statement, but I am going to say that vampires don’t sparkle, and neither does Bruce Wayne. He is a baddie we’ve tried to make into a good guy.

Superman has always appealed to me. I get that it’s frustrating that he can be really struggling in a fight and then muster all of his strength to finally win… but I also think it’s far more realistic that someone who is very much not like me would save me, as opposed to someone very like me saving me. Also, I think it’s telling that Superman’s villain, Lex Luthor, has A LOT in common with Batman. It makes me think that dirt and grime really do amount to dirt and grime, as opposed to the weird morality of dark heroes where dirt and grime actually amount to fairy dust.

Theologically, Superman is Jesus and Batman is Adam.

Jesus was a God Who became man and saved us from sin and ourselves. Adam was a man who learned of good and evil, and was thrust into an eternal battle that he was ill-equipped to wage, but continues to fight nonetheless.

Batman is an attempt to turn a man into a god.

That’s one of the reasons I hate him. He is an attempt to lower the standard to something that’s achievable by human means. Batman is the idea that you or I could wake up one day with enough motivation to make ourselves into gods.

We (American society/Hollwood/whoever) have been creating and watching A LOT of superhero stories in mainstream media lately. Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, The Avengers, Batman v. Superman, Hulk, X-Men, Ant Man, Man of Steel, Iron Man, etc… We have been obsessed with characters who save the world when it’s doomed.

Prior to that, we were obsessed with the apocalyptic tale of waking up one morning to find that the world has turned to Hell and a handbasket overnight without our notice. I took a Horror Lit. and Film class in college that focused on what was scariest to us, and what my instructor pointed out was the wave of films in which we woke up and discovered that the world had broken, completely and possibly irreversibly, while we were sleeping… 28 days later, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead, Contagion, Signs, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend, The Book of ELi, etc…

Prior to that, the U.S. suffered September 11th.

I was in high school when September 11th occurred. I remember watching the news in Mr. Morrill’s English class and seeing a human being jump 100+ floors to his death. That moment shook me to my core. It changed the world to me. It showed me that the world is bad enough that it might be better to die than to live.

September 11th changed all of us.

It broke us, provided a rude awakening, and forced us to consider how the rest of the world sees us. We’ve looked to our future and seen struggle, hatred, and death.

I honestly think Donald Trump is going to become the next U.S. President.

I do.

I didn’t believe it until this week. I’m not sure what happened this week, but I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is unstoppable.

Not because he’s qualified – he’s not. He’s got about as much XP in navigating U.S. and world government as I have playing football.

He’s not unstoppable because he’s a decent leader who’s going to fix everything – he’s not. I’m pretty sure he’d sell any one of us to the Islamic nations he so disdains… if he believed it would bring him profit.

He’s actually kind of a big buffoon – a spectacle – who seems to succeed regardless of what he says or does. He’s Razzle Dazzle, and, in true Chicago style, he’s getting away with murder.

Donald Trump is an unstoppable force and he’s going to win because we refuse to believe the Savior we need is One Who is completely different from ourselves. He’s going to win because he’s presented himself as the savior we’ve been seeking. Donald Trump is going to win because September 11th made us feel the impotence that’s always been ours (not to mention the recession that amplified our impotence). What more can we desire for our primary representative than a man who has whatever woman he wants, insults whomever he wants, has cool gadgets and a butler, and claims to be the only person on Earth who can make us strong again? What is America if not a land of extreme power and transcendence… just like Donald Trump is a man of extreme power and transcendence? He is a man who not only builds walls, but persuades the neighbors, who he hates, to build his walls for him. He is a man who wields power as if it doesn’t require caution. He is the American savior. He is the vampire we’ve been waiting to climb into our bedrooms at night, the millionaire we’ve hoped would teach us about sex, the dark hero, whose dirt and grime is actually sparkly pixy dust…

Donald Trump is the fiction we’ve been writing to ourselves for decades.

He has taken the stories of our worst, post-September 11th fears, and combined them with the stories of our last hope in combating world destruction. He has written himself as the Dark Knight who is uniquely-qualified to foil those evil, Islamic aliens who wish to kill off all of humanity to rebuild their own society in its place.

…We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!  We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Isn’t it interesting how America and its holiday somehow transcended all other nations to defeat the evil alien invaders? Even in our stories in which we are united with all of the rest of the world, we unite under the U.S. banner, the banner that believes we are the leaders of the world. Our fiction for as long as I can remember has told the story Donald Trump has claimed as his own. Beware the man who tells you what you want to hear.

I’m not saying you should vote for Hillary. Hillary is NOT invited to this post. The ONLY concern of this post is the frightful prospect that Batman/Edward Cullen/Christian Grey/Donald Trump has bamboozled a nation… he’s not only deceived a “Christian” nation into believing that he’s the “Christian” candidate, but he’s masqueraded as if he, himself is Jesus Christ.

Donald Trump is NOT the Christian candidate. He is NOT a savior.


Dragon Age 2 Review

I previously wrote what I thought about Dragon Age: Origins. Now I’m going to proceed to tell you what I thought about Dragon Age 2.

Thing 1: Dragon Age 2 was far less sexist than its predecessor. From what I can tell, there were equally terrible romance options for all involved.

It was interesting that most or all of the NPCs had pretty fierce opinions, and they didn’t waver. Those opinions had enormous consequences. Although this was interesting, it didn’t do much for anyone who wanted Hawke to have satisfying relationships with allies, both in the realm of romance or in friendship. I spent most of the game worries about what my allies kept trying to get me to help them do… Anders wanted me to help him start a war, I pissed Carver off pretty early on and he left our party, Fenris kept wanting me to punish mages (even though I was playing as a mage), and Merrill wanted to use blood magic to put a mirror back together. Varric and Aveline were the only two who didn’t make me feel like I was babysitting.

Thing 2: Visually, DA2 was a vast improvement. It was super different stylistically than the first game was. Hawke was a fun character to play, partly because of the look. She was BA, appealing, and unique.

Thing 3: The game is set up as a story within a story. There’s a dwarf, who is being interrogated, and he’s telling the story of what occurred. It felt a little contrived to me. It felt like the writers realized they had set the entire story inside one city, and players were going to crave a wider world. Problem, the videos of Varric being interrogated didn’t show ANY of the wider world. It felt like a cop-out… a device… It didn’t feel like an honest story.

Thing 4: Speaking of the world-building, it sucked. Half of the fun in playing an RPG is exploring the world. However, DA2 was all set within one city, minus a short scene at the beginning and a quick expedition into the Dark Roads. The side quests all occurred in repetitive locations. The maps for all of the side quests were repetitive. All I can think is, “Really? This is all you came up with?”

Thing 5: I liked some of the changes they made to game play, but I went ahead and started playing Inquisition only to discover they completely changed everything again. I understand the need to appeal to a wider audience and having attacks triggered, by, well the trigger… makes sense, but come on, I’ve been faithful to the series and I don’t really want to have to relearn the whole thing.

Thing 6: Most of the side quests were stupid. I felt pretty irritated at the tedium of playing the same maps again and again, but it also was just a long, long game. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief because the story never transcended the formula. Side quest to gain XP. Another side quest to gain XP. Another side quest to gain XP. Main storyline. Another side quest to gain XP… and on, and on, and on….

Overall, not the worst game I’ve ever played, but pretty bad. As far as RPGs go, I’d actually recommend that you skip this series entirely. Maybe my opinion will change as I play Inquisition, but my hopes aren’t high. 😦

The Sexist Nature of Video Games

Of course video games have sexist elements to them – OF COURSE they do. But that doesn’t keep it from irritating me when those sexist elements interfere with my enjoyment of gaming.

RPGs (Role Playing Games) often have romance storylines. RPGs are not linear. Thus there is a ton of replay value and they end up being somewhat similar to Choose Your Own Adventure books. There are tons of variables the gamer faces and he or she makes choices about what characters do, where they go, when, whether they have a sense of morality, and to what extent they build relationships with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in the game. The choices made throughout a game impact how much NPCs trust the gamer’s character, and what he/she will do.

The romance storyline is almost always a part of this. In order to get a romance storyline working, the gamer has to have his/her character talk to the desired love interest a ton, and say the kinds of things the NPC will appreciate. Additionally, there is also almost always a side quest to complete to really, truly gain the NPC’s trust and affection. This takes hours. I’m not exaggerating. I get that gaming is often viewed as a pathetic sort of thing because of the time it consumes, but I guarantee you’ve spent more time watching tv than have in the past year.

So… the thing about being a girl gamer is that the storylines are set up to be for a dude. Mass Effect 2 is a great example. In it, there are 4 romance options for a dude. All of them are pretty decent. There are 4 romance options for a female character – 3 of them suck.

As a dude, Shepherd can sleep with a woman who has been bio/genitically/whatever engineered to be really sexy and competent. He can also have romance (no sex) with a crazy girl who has tattoos all over her and walks around the ship barely clothed. He can also have romance with an alien whose face you never see because of her special space suit, but she’s got a REALLY human and female shape, voice, etc… He can also talk a lesbian into doing a sexy dance for him in his quarters.

As a female, Shepherd can have a pretty decent romance with a guy who has excellent abs, but kind of isn’t impressive other than that. She can also have an alien who REALLY doesn’t look like a human at all and they have to discuss whether or not their anatomy will even allow for sex. I didn’t play that one all the way through, because it weirded me out a bit too much. She can also have the same alien male Shepherd can have with the very human female shape, voice, etc… She can also have the lesbian.

And, okay, as a female, what I really want out of the romance is not at all the perfect abs, or the animated cut-scene sex. I want to have a character who is important to my character. I want to have the flirtatious dialogue options. I want to have the sense that he’s fallen for my character fully and will never want to be with anyone else. WHY DON’T THEY GET A WOMAN TO WRITE THE FEMALE ROMANCE STORYLINES?!?!?!?!

Why am I on this rant, you ask?

The last thing I did in 2015 is beat Dragon Age: Origins.

Best romance option as a female is Alistair, and I have to say, he is a REALLY GOOD option. He’s well-written, sympathetic, adorable… However, at the end of the game, female Gray Warden either has to die saving him or he dies saving her. There is no option for both of you living unless you pimp Alistair out to a witch who will become impregnated with his baby, which she will raise however she sees fit, without Alistair ever seeing it. Also, you can try to persuade him to marry his half-brother’s widow.

This isn’t a problem when you play as a male character… the romance interests for you don’t end up in either of those messes, or, at least I don’t see any way they possibly could…
I’m just saying… it seems slightly unfair….

Quote of the Day

Forgive me if I’m off a little on this one; I’m doing it from memory.

“There are two things men are always willing to believe: that a woman is weak, and that she finds him attractive.”

I don’t think I’ve ever included a quote from a video game here, but this one made me smile so much that I had to include it. It’s from Dragon Age: Origins. Character Morrigan says it, but you have to talk to her kind of a lot to get her to say it. 🙂

To My Dad… on Father’s Day

Dear Dad,

Today is a day that’s dedicated to honoring all of the work you put into making me a decent person.

When Steve, Lori, Amy and I were in Peru last year, and fleeing from wildfire, I realized the value of all of your safety lessons, “Don’t expect other people to take care of you,” and “If something bad happens, you get as far away from it as possible before looking back or regrouping.” I may only check my car doors once after I’ve parked, but I suspect I’ve dodged at least a few dangers in my life because of all the safety lessons you drilled into me.

Although I look at softball as a demon in my life sometimes, I also know that my work ethic, ability to break tasks down and understand them, and my skills in teamwork are largely attributable to softball and the hours and hours you spent taking wild pitches to the shins… and then there was that one time when I accidentally threw a bat at you. Thank you for all you gave up in time and ease of motion to make my dreams come true.

In the academic arena, I didn’t struggle a whole lot, but I recently remembered the initial struggle I was having with Algebra. I think it was the idea of variables representing numbers (that weren’t provided to us) that was my hang-up, but I distinctly remember the moment I got it, and it had nothing to do with teachers explaining things it me, or at least not in the traditional sense of the word “teacher.” It was when you and I were going over a word problem where I had to algebraically  represent the question, and the way you explained it made things just click. It’s that moment that got me through all of my high school math… a year ahead of my peers. Thank you.

Then, there are the less lesson-oriented things you’ve given me that make me who I am. Because of you, I understand and enjoy sci-fi and fantasy in film and video games (something most girls just don’t get), I own more books than I’ll probably ever read, I have areas of interest that range from theology to art, coffee to psychology, history to running, entertainment media to travel, and home decor to grammar. I don’t know many people who have nearly as many interests as I have, and I only have those interests because you modeled a constant hunger for knowledge… an insatiable curiosity.

Thank you for forcing me to run errands with you when I was vehemently opposed, thank you for finding and obtaining that bootlegged copy of The Torkelsons for me (it’s still my favorite show), thank you for taking my side when I was often too afraid to stand up for myself as a kid, thank you for calling me out on my kindergarten swimming pool lie (I tell the truth to this day because of it), thank you for making me chicken and stars everyday after kindergarten, and thank you for so many $15 tips to Barnes and Noble… as recently as my last visit to North Carolina. Most of all, however, thank you for being my dad.

I love you,


Don’t Rock the Table!

I had a very writerly moment the other day that sort of cracked me up.

I was at Sbucks. It was in the midst of the road trip. I was in Oceanside, and feeling a little guilty that my experience of the places I’d stayed was so limited to a few hours a day, and I spent the rest of the time doing the things I’d have done at home.

… like the sitting at Sbucks for three hours.

Still, I enjoy sitting at coffee shops. Right now, I’m sitting at a coffee shop. I’ve been here for almost four hours, and it feels like nothing. It feels like it’s still the early morning, even though it’s noon.

That’s how I was feeling in Oceanside. I’d read for about an hour and a half; I’d applied for a job; I’d listened to a podcast.

But then, the lady at the other end of my table started typing. We were sitting at one of those long wooden tables that are all-of-a-sudden very “in” with Sbucks. We were on the same side of the table, but on opposite ends. She had been up and down. She’d even left the store at one point, then returned, and now, she was typing, her weighted fingers hitting each key the way my feet hit the ground twenty miles into a marathon.

Thud. Thud. Thud-thud!

It was enough that it pulled me out of my reading zone, and I had to look at her long and hard. A scene popped into my mind: there’s Sean Connery, screaming out, “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” For those of you who don’t know, that’s from the film Finding Forrester, which is a terribly underrated film in my opinion. It’s the kind of film that reminds me of the artistry in writing – not just in the words I choose or the flow of thoughts and content on the page. Oh no, it’s far more than that.

Similar to how a good glass of wine consists of good wine, plus – plus the size and shape of the glass, the smell of the wine, the lighting in the room, the cheese or chocolate that’s paired with the wine, the conversation, the perfect chair, the visual of my nail polish and rings as I look at my hands holding the glass, the swirl of the wine in the glass and the legs coating and lingering in spots. Likewise, writing is the words and thoughts, plus. It’s the thickness and texture of the paper (or it’s the weight of the journal and how worn its cover). It’s the flow of the ink or the smell of the pencil. It’s the right amount of background noise. It’s the coffee on the table. It’s the passage of time, unobserved. It’s the sound of the keys. In writing, as in anything, it’s the sum of the parts that makes an elegant writing experience, and the experience matters.

I looked at that lady, thought a loud, “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” that she didn’t hear or chose to ignore, and then I left Sbucks in a huff, the experience destroyed by someone who misunderstands writing. In retrospect, I’m sad for both of us.

The Day My Dreams Came True

There I was, standing opposite an enormous, roided-out teenage boy, who was trying to hit me with a ball…

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually know whether the kid takes steroids; all I know is that he is a big dude.

So, basically, I’ve always wanted to put together a teacher dodge ball team to participate in the tournament at the high school where I teach. It’s a grand affair, and the students take it far too seriously. They always put together some sort of team uniform/costume – usually with little regard for the school dress code. Some of the teams practice. All of them move insanely fast, as if dodging bullets instead of balls… Matrix-style, of course.

Teachers, sadly, are not the most athletic of people, and, despite the numerous humiliations they suffer daily on their jobs, none are too enthusiastic about putting themselves into a situation where lots of people would see them get hit with balls. However, with them knowing that this is my last year at IRHS, I was able to put a team together.

The team consisted of me, the tall, young, athletic History teacher who coaches soccer and runs in his free time, the doesn’t-know-how-old-he-is trash-talking Calc. teacher, the super-hero-obsessed and admittedly-unathletic Bio. teacher who played as a favor to me in spite of getting the flu just days before the tournament, the youth leader and thin, but uncoordinated English teacher who had no business being out there (I wouldn’t have asked had I known how embarrassing her throw really is), and the 4-ft tall Spanish teacher who didn’t even show up.

So… our first match was against a team called Swoll (or possibly Swole – it means uber buff) Team 6. They were all football players with arms the size of my thighs. In between matches, they did push-ups because they promised their coach they wouldn’t let the tournament put them behind in training… even though football doesn’t start again until like August or September. They played in red, white, blue, and various military-style gear, such as ammo vests, boots, etc…

And they wrecked us in the first game. However, the matches went to the best of two out of three, so we had another shot.

It went down to me and the History teacher against two teenagers pretty quick. I managed to get one of the enormous teens out with a well-timed throw, but the History teacher went down at exactly the same time, so…

there I was, standing opposite an enormous, roided-out teenage boy, who was trying to hit me with a ball…

After all of the balls ended up on my side of the court, I gathered them together, got one in each hand, and went for it. I honestly didn’t even get close to him with three consecutive throws. I back-pedaled, thinking I was ready for anything, and he launched one at me that I did not dodge Matrix-style… I stood there, bewildered, as it hit me directly in the chest without me even making one movement.

And yet, that tournament made my dreams come true.

After running a marathon in a few weeks, I intend to get a team together for the Tucson Dodge Ball League. Who’s with me?!