Monday, July 6, 2015

Peppermint Patty is Not Gay

Okay, this has been bothering me for some time now and I really need to get it off my chest.

Here goes...

Peppermint Patty is not gay. And neither is Marcie. This is one of those "pop culture" things that will not die and I'm so so so tired of it. As recently as last month, Entertainment Weekly had a little sidebar in their gay pride issue about TV characters who gays identify with and one of them was Peppermint Patty. I can understand why people would relate to her, but that doesn't make her gay. I relate to Ariel, but that doesn't make me a sixteen year old girl or a mermaid, nor does it make Ariel a man.

Peppermint Patty is a tomboy, and she definitely stands out from the other girls of the Peanuts universe. Sally, Lucy, Patty (the other one that no one remembers), Violet all wear dresses. Peppermint Patty doesn't. She's athletic. And in most animated specials, she's got kind of a husky voice. But to take all of these things at face value and label her lesbian because of them is to deny her her identity for one ascribed to her, and to rob her of her nuance.

She's being raised by her father without her mother. Her psychology makes perfect sense that she would associate herself with more masculine attributes, as she's very close to her dad. There's a series of strips where the school demands she adhere to a new dresscode and stop wearing sandals and shorts. She doesn't feel like herself. And yet, this is not to say there is nothing feminine about her. For there is also a series in which she takes up figure skating and signs up for a competition. These were worked into the animated special She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown. And in these, a decent amount of focus is put on the perfect skating outfit to wear. What she chooses is something feminine and skirted with sequins. To write her off as the butch baseball player is putting her in a box.

To ascribe a sexual attraction to girls to poor Peppermint Patty is to ignore the many many hints that she is attracted to Charlie Brown. It's a little bit tragic, since he's infatuated with the Little Red Haired Girl, and thus doesn't know what to do with her advances. But she certainly does make advances. How many times does she flirt with him with a "you kinda like me, dontcha Chuck?" She has only ever shown this sort of attraction to Charlie Brown. It's not as overt as Sally's crush on Linus, Lucy's attempts to woo Schroeder, or even Linus' brief infatuation with Miss Othmar, but it is absolutely there nonetheless.

June 13, 1972

Part of what seals the image of lesbian Peppermint Patty is her connection to Marcie. Indeed, some even suggest that it's Marcie who's gay. A recent Big Bang Theory agreed when Leonard, after it was suggested Peppermint Patty was gay said, "That's Marcie. Peppermint Patty's just athletic." Yes, Patty is just athletic, but neither does that prove Marcie is gay.

Why do people think Marcie is gay, or that the two are some sort of couple? Is it because they are always together? Linus and Charlie Brown are always together, and no one is suggesting they do unspeakable things beneath that blanket. Patty and Marcie hang out together all the time because they live on the other end of town (or in a neighboring town). Remember that Peppermint Patty's got her own baseball team separate from the rest of the gang. So she's going to spend more time with people closer to her.

I think some people assume that Marcie thinks Peppermint Patty is a boy, and that's why she calls her "Sir". Perhaps her poor vision plays into this, as Marcie wears glasses. But if that's the case, it would also be evidence against Marcie being gay, for even if she were attracted to Peppermint Patty it would be under the assumption she's male. But in reality, this reading is incorrect as well. Marcie is well aware Patty is a girl. The "sir" thing comes up as a sign of respect because when they first met, Peppermint Patty was a counselor at the girls' camp where they both were for the summer.

This is the first appearance of Marcie:

July 20, 1971

So obviously Marcie calls her "sir" not because she's mistaken for a boy, but because she's in a leadership role, and Marcie's kind of a dork. I think Schulz kept the "sir" thing because he liked running gags. It also makes Marcie seems subservient to Peppermint Patty even though she's often really the brains of the operation. It's a relationship dynamic that works well comedically. But if all we've got to go on for this lesbian relationship is that, it's a very weak foundation.

June 8, 1972

Peppermint Patty and Marcie are just best friends and to insinuate anything beyond that is to suggest something strange about same-sex friendship. Just because people are close does not mean they are more than friends. And just because one friend is more "masculine" doesn't mean they are more than friends. And again, no one has suggested anything about any of the male characters being gay. I could say "Schroeder is totally gay for Beethoven and that's why Lucy doesn't get anywhere with him", but that would be ascribing things based on very little evidence. In fact, there's even a couple strips where Marcie admits she loves Charlie Brown, too. 
July 22, 1979

But hey, why take a character's words at face value when we can read them as queer pioneers?

I don't deny that in some ways Peppermint Patty is an outlier, and I can understand why gay viewers would relate to her. However, to try to put her and Marcie into this box because you want her to be that way is unfair to both characters. And from a broader standpoint, it suggests that sexual orientation is easily identified by external factors and trains readers to think "Of course this person is gay because..." I fear this does a disservice to everyone, gay and straight alike. It's like Ernie and Bert. People love to joke about them being gay, as if it's absurd to have a best friend. They've got separate beds. Maybe they're roommates because they took the cheapest apartment they could find in a puppet-friendly neighborhood. Anyway, by saying, "Oh, those are the gay ones," we undermine existing relationships and perhaps even foster homophobia. Maybe some athletic girl like Peppermint Patty doesn't want to be mistaken for a lesbian, and so she stops associating with her best friend. 

I'm tired of the armchair psychology that wants to ascribe sexual orientation to comic strip characters where no real evidence exists. The fact that so many have come to think of Peppermint Patty and Marcie as the Peanuts lesbians is I think really kind of sad. And I wanted to set the record straight. Peppermint Patty is not gay. She's a complex, funny, lazy, athletic, masculine, feminine character. In short, she's a girl. And she doesn't need any other qualifier. Neither does Marcie.

July 21, 1979

Sunday, May 10, 2015

You're Not Fooling Anyone!

This is one of those things that drives me crazy, and Maria Bamford proves no one is falling for it.

"I wouldn't get mad, but they are trying to trick me!" Exactly right. Why resort to cheap ploys to get butts in the seats. Why try to be "relevant", and what does that even mean?

I personally will never set foot in any church that calls itself a "coffee shop". Stop playing pretend, you're not fooling anyone.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Baa Ram Ewe!

Today is what on the Christian calendar is known as Good Friday (unless you belong to the Orthodox tradition, in which case it's next week). [Incidentally, I'm sorry if some of my readers dislike when I get "religious", particularly as it seems more of a focus of my posts recently. But I only really write these days when I feel like I have something to say, and that just happens to be matters of faith these days. This blog was always a random assortment of content and topics. I have no intention of making it an exclusive Jesus blog, nor of avoiding Him in total. These posts and essays reflect all aspects of who I am and the things I think about.]

I live in a part of town that's not great. It's literally the "wrong side of the tracks", and there are people down here that can be colorful characters. Our walls are thin so we hear a lot of what goes on outside. There's a freight train that passes right by our place at all hours of the day. You can hear every time a dog barks across the street. And I won't mention the sounds you can hear from neighboring apartments. So it's no surprise to hear people yell things outside. Every now and then, there will be some sort of traffic and someone will honk and shout at someone. Or people will shout at each other on the street for whatever reason. And in this part of town, it's not exactly an uncommon occurrence.

That's all background so you'll understand it wasn't exactly a surprise that today I was on the computer and randomly hear from down outside some guy yelling out of his car as he passed by. But what he yelled, still felt random. All of a sudden out of nowhere I hear this guy yell, "God damn you!" I don't know who he was talking to (certainly not me; I'm up on the second floor) or why. But it was almost funny because he dragged the words out like a cartoon villain shouting, "I will have vengeance!" or something. And that sound traveled with the doppler effect of his car passing by. So I'm minding my own business and all of a sudden out of nowhere I hear this voice pass by: "Goooooood daaaamn yooooooooooouuuuu!!!!" It really was almost funny, the way it sounded like someone's last words as they plummet from a cliff.

But strangely, this random voice got me thinking about Good Friday. Maybe you don't literally have someone driving by cursing cartoonishly, but there's a voice out there shouting "God damn you!" at you. The Bible calls Satan the Accuser, and says he acts as a kind of prosecutorial adversary against you before God. Satan, in a sense, is constantly passing by your door, hanging his head out his window at you and shouting, "God damn you!" Sometimes we're racked with our own guilt; sometimes we're assaulted with feelings of our own worthlessness. But all of these are manifestations of Satan shouting "Goooood daaaaamn yooooooouuuu!" (For clarity's sake, guilt that comes from conviction and knowledge of your wrongdoing, the sort that leads you to repentence, is not what I'm talking about. That's the work of the Holy Spirit and it leads you to God. The accusations of Satan lead you to despair.)

On the other hand, the guy's words also reminded me, because they rhyme, of the 1995 family movie Babe and it's repeated little verse of "Baa ram ewe". In the movie, Babe is a pig who is raised by a sheepdog and grows up to take on that role for a farmer. He is able to command the sheep with a little rhyme that begins "Baa ram ewe". When the sheep hear it, they follow his lead. If it wouldn't offend his Jewish sensibilities, Jesus was like Babe the pig. His sheep know his voice and follow him. Instead of listening to the "God damn you"s out there, they follow Jesus as he says "Baa ram ewe".

I'm reminded this time of year of the saving power of the risen Christ, the Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep. If we heed his call, we need not listen to the voice shouting curses at us. Even if we feel worthless, we have been saved from damnation and are not to believe the lies of the enemy. I want to encourage you, if you feel the constant cursing of God's damnation toward you, to cling to Jesus. Maybe you're haunted by something you've done or you've never given thought to God before but are afraid. It's true, there is ultimate damnation for those who reject him, but God doesn't want that; he's waiting to accept you. Just as there may be a voice out there calling for your end, another voice calls, "Come to me! Baa ram ewe!" And if you are a follower of Christ, I encourage you to remember the voice condemning you is not of God, but a desperate cry of a being whose damnation was sealed Easter weekend over 2000 years ago.

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." -Romans 8:1-2

Baa ram ewe! Baa ram ewe!
To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true!
Sheep be true! Baa ram ewe!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Top Ten Movies of 2014

Once again, I must state that this list covers only those movies I've seen to date. I missed a lot of good movies this past year for a number of reasons. Whittling down to an arbitrary ten can also be difficult. And of course, your mileage may vary. But with the Oscars on Sunday, I thought I should get this up.

10. The Judge -- I debated this tenth slot, but ultimately thought I enjoyed this one enough to warrant it. Robert Downey Jr. is a slick city lawyer who has to defend his father, a big time country judge, on charges of vehicular manslaughter. It's a bit old-fashioned, but there are great performances from RDJ and Robert Duvall. Unfortunately, there's also way too much screen time given to a subplot with Vera Farmiga that doesn't really need to be there. The cast makes it a worthwhile viewing.

9. Noah -- The movie that sharply divided critics and moviegoers. If you're looking for a a strict Biblical account, this is not it. It takes a number of liberties (and yes, too many at times). And yet, I felt like even though Aronofsky drastically changed a number of facts, he absolutely nailed the themes of the story, and indeed of the entire Bible. I felt like this movie better understood and laid out the larger themes of damnation and redemption than any of the more overtly Christian movies released this year did. Yes, he invents absurd subplots, but it's all in service of those larger themes: the depravity of man and how there's no one righteous, the agony of hurting your children for the greater good, the power of forgiveness. I certainly don't think it was perfect and it's not for everybody, but taking it for what it is, I found it beautiful. No comparison to the terrible Left Behind remake.

8. Big Eyes -- You might be surprised to see this one make the list. I enjoyed it a lot. It's a fun movie. It's a true story and all, but it's fun. Tim Burton is almost back to form here. I'll watch Amy Adams in anything. While it's not as good as Ed Wood (it's from the same screenwriters), I found it enjoyable and one I wouldn't mind revisiting.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel -- Speaking of revisiting, we have the Grand Budapest Hotel. I'm a fan of Wes Anderson, and there are a lot of fun goings-on in this movie. I admire the use of different ratios and color schemes for the different time periods. And yet, I found I didn't love it as much as I expected to. The film was a bit more violent than previous Anderson films (but in a quirky Anderson way -- when Jeff Goldblum loses his fingers in a door, they are so clearly fake-looking plastic fingers). It wasn't as magical for me as Moonrise Kingdom, or as quietly charming as Darjeeling Limited, or as bold as Royal Tenanbaums. It's certainly not his worst movie, and there are many good things to say about it, but I remain a tad disappointed which is why it's so lo on the list.

6. Edge of Tomorrow -- The movie no one had any expectations for, and which is becoming something of a cult hit. There's a very vocal corner of the internet that is spreading the word about this movie as much as it can. People stayed away for two reasons: the marketing was confusing or not clear enough, or they hate Tom Cruise. The title is lame (and the DVD rebranding buries it), and you could write it off as Groundhog Day with aliens, but it's smart and engaging. As to avoiding anything with Cruise in it, at least you can watch him die over and over again! Besides, you don't see this movie for him, you see it for Emily Blunt. She is fantastic in this movie. She's had a good year in general with this and Into the Woods (and no love from the Academy for either). She makes the human elements work so well. I find the ending a teeny bit of a letdown, but it's a great ride anyway. If there were ever a movie that compared to playing a video game, this is it.

5. Boyhood -- Shot over twelve years, it's an indie experiment that mostly works. I find some of the sameness gets bland after awhile, but it's fun to track the years by the music, clothes and current events. I consider it the epitome of a great independent film. I don't think it's the best thing I ever saw or anything, but it's very much a Richard Linklater movie and if he never made another one, this would be a fine way to cap his career. Part of me is a little sad that we can't get a parallel film called Girlhood following the sister; that would have made the experiment even more fascinating. Basically, this movie is like a fictional, somewhat improvised version of Michael Apted's Up series.

4. Chef -- There are people who hate this movie. They think it's too cliche or that it's too obviously a statement about art. I'm not one of them; I had a blast. Jon Favreau returns to making a smaller movie after big studio films like Iron Man and Cowboys vs. Aliens. And in a way, this seems like her own personal statement about what happened with Iron Man 2. But beyond that reading, it's a simple movie about a father sharing his passion with his son and how the two of them build something great together. My only real criticism is how much amazing food is made in some scenes and never gets eaten. This movie has been called "food porn" and some of it made me really hungry. If you don't want a hot sandwich after watching this film, I think there's something wrong with you.

3. Gone Girl -- I had pretty low expectations, since this was one of those books that every other woman was reading for a year and a half and I couldn't see how it could be that good. The story itself is kind of pulpy and ridiculous. And yet I found that I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. Apart from a few minor points that I didn't think worked quite well, I was pleasantly surprised. Ben Affleck reminds us all that he actually can be a solid actor, and Rosamunde Pike gives a scene-chewing performance that steals the movie. The campaign to get Julianne Moore the Oscar this year might succeed and that would be unfortunate. There's nothing exactly subtle about Gone Girl, but Pike makes it work so well and I'd hate to see her lose. The supporting cast is strong as well. The slightly anti-Feminist themes tickled me as well. I don't really consider it "misogynistic" as some claim (there was a real debate about this when it came out), but I kind of love that just because the men aren't all great guys doesn't mean that women can't be completely insane. I think the movie preys well on our expectations, suppositions and prejudices.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier -- The best of the comic book movies I saw this year. The shocking revelations that shook up the Marvel movie universe really worked for me, even retroactively fixing elements that had been bothering me. Chris Evans is so utterly convincing in how he plays Steve Rogers with a sturdy old-fashioned kind of conviction. There are a few too many twists, some plot threads that don't get enough attention, and a bit too much "because it looks cool" that takes away from the logic of the story, but it succeeds in entertaining without being completely mindless. I think it's one of the best Marvel movies yet, and when it was over I couldn't wait to see Captain America 3. Unfortunately, we've got another few films to go before that and I hope they don't kill the momentum.

1. Birdman -- I haven't liked Inarritu's previous movies so I didn't know what to think when this came out. I also generally dislike "magical realism" and there seems to be a bit of that here. And yet, I still consider it the best movie I saw all year. The whole cast is superb, and the fact that we can carry a bit of their outside lives into their characters makes it work even better. We know Michael Keaton as Batman; we know Edward Norton as a very involved sort of actor. Here Norton is almost parody of himself. Keaton puts so much into his performance. Some have criticized the movie as being just things we've seen before (the actor who wants to be taken seriously for his new project), but it's really not about the story but about how the story is told. The cinematography, with its long takes, is solid. And as someone who's worked in the theater, the craziness behind the scenes rang so true. I don't even care if the movie was making a big statement about critics and art and what not (it feels almost like a satire of Ratatouille in places); I just enjoyed it for what it was. There are a few extraneous pieces, but when it's focused on Michael Keaton it really works.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Somebody's Miracle

I've been getting into Liz Phair recently. I really dig this song.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marathon Monday

Living in the Boston area, you can't escape the Boston marathon. When that Marathon Monday in April rolls around, you best be prepared for streets to close down and wall-to-wall television coverage. And now, thanks to the recent bombing, for heightened excessive security and "Boston Strong" slogans everywhere. But that's not the marathon Monday I'm talking about. I don't have much use for marathons. For me, when Marathon Monday rolls around it's an annoyance. But my family likes the marathon, and my nephew was even born on a Marathon Monday, so I can't escape it. But marathons bore me to tears.

What I do love however is movie marathons. And tomorrow is going to be a movie marathon Monday for me, as the new Hobbit movie comes out and they will be screening all three that day. I've gone to a few movie marathons over the years. I saw the Dark Knight trilogy marathon (that was the night of the Aurora shooting). I even went to the Twilight marathon (and now I never have to see any of those films ever again).

I remember back when Return of the King came out there were Lord of the Rings marathons, but I wasn't able to go because it sold out in like an hour. Now, I have the opportunity to watch the three Hobbit movies together. And it's going to be fun.

There are few things I like better than movie marathons. I wish there were more of them in my area. I've always wanted to do a Star Trek movie marathon. Some nights at home I've done marathons. My sister and I did a Toy Story marathon, and a Lion King marathon, and a Rush Hour marathon. Back in the 1990s, for awhile the Disney Channel did "Triple Feature Friday" where they would air a marathon of movies either in the same series or related topically. I wish they'd bring that back. Of course, I wish they still aired movies without commercials.

I remember when I was a kid and the Sci-Fi Channel (back when it was called that) aired the Star Wars Trilogy all day. It was hosted by Carrie Fisher that year and I taped it because I wasn't home all day. The following year they did it again in letterbox format hosted by Billy Dee Williams. They're sister network USA used to do it pretty often as well after that. Nowadays, TNT is always running Lord of the Rings in a similar fashion.

Great as it is at home, nothing beats doing a marathon in a theater the way they were meant to be seen. To me, a movie marathon is a perfect first date. Kinda wish I had someone to go with to one. Anyway, I'm looking forward to marathon Monday tomorrow, the only Marathon Monday that I can get behind.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Meaning of Christmas According to Joel

Last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Jimmy premiered a new Christmas song written with The Killers called "Joel the Lump of Coal". Normally I dislike new modern Christmas songs (I never ever ever want to hear "The Christmas Shoes" again). And it's a little frustrating that we are into the Christmas season so soon, but I was pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of the song.

In the tradition of "Frosty the Snowman", it's a song about a sentient object at Christmas time. but while the story involves Santa and the North Pole, I came away seeing Christological significance as well. Give a listen to the song below, and then I'll elucidate.

That was cute, right? Did you enjoy it? 

When I was in high school, I remember that someone in my sister's class once wrote a paper on how Frosty the Snowman is a Christ figure (particularly in the animated special). He gives his life to save a little girl, then is reborn and in the end he ascends to the sky (on Santa's sleigh). "And he waved goodbye saying, 'Don't you cry. I'll be back again someday.'" 

Similarly, I found Joel the Lump of Coal to represent Christ's mission on earth. He comes somewhat reluctantly but does the will of Santa (shadows of Gethsemane?) and in the end his presence makes the naughty boy aware of his sin, but Joel doesn't leave things that way. Joel knows he was sent for a purpose, and he tells the kid to put all his pain onto him. Like Jesus on the cross, Joel takes on the boy's sin on himself as it were, and in doing so he gives his life. But he is reborn as a brilliant diamond, and the boy is changed, now with great reward. Isn't that a beautiful representation of what Christ does? In a way, is that not what Christmas is all about?

I must say, I was rather moved by Joel the Lump of Coal. That's a song I wouldn't mind hearing on the radio, and I've already bought it on iTunes. I hope all your Christmases are filled with warm feelings and that those things that seem lousy turn out to bring you joy, and if you feel like an unloved lump of coal, find your purpose and shine bright.