Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Awakening: On Rey, geneology, and why her parents don't matter in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There be spoilers here.

No, seriously. A multitude of spoilers. Do not read on if you do not wish for spoilers.

Did I mention about the spoilers?  Because I'm not holding back or using spoiler font. Only read this if you've already seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens or don't mind spoilers or don't give a fiddly about the Star Wars universe and are just here for the cursing. Except there's probably not that much cursing.


As I was born in 1976, Star Wars has been a thing for all of my life - from "I love you"/"I know to Ewoks and midichlorians, the good, bad, and ugly of this space mythology/science fiction saga has enchanted the geeks I grew up with. In my household, we've eagerly awaited J.J. Abrams's addition to the universe and lost our girl-power marbles when we first caught a glimpse of Rey. But now Star Wars: The Force Awakens is also the source of some consternation as my daughters ask #wheresrey and a dude from Facebook mansplains to me that I can get Pop Vinyl Rey toys so I really shouldn't complain about the difficulty in finding the few mass-produced, non-collector's edition action figures for my ladies. Then my youngest girl child came home with a bobble head Rey and I went into a #smashthepatriarchy funk. As I witnessed yet another group of Star Wars fans discuss Rey's potential genealogy, I realized that I have a few things to say.

Of course Rey's genealogy intrigues me. Star Wars mythology called our attention to the Skywalker saga and how people are related is a key theme of this universe. As the parentage of Kylo Ren is known - and an essential plot line - viewers are left wondering about the family backgrounds of both Rey (who waits for her parents) and Finn (who never knew his parents). While a variety of theories about Finn's father abound, the true focus of commentary has been on Rey and there is much speculation regarding whether she is a Solo or a Skywalker.

I'm not here to do that. In fact, I think doing so undermines her agency as a key character in this Star Wars universe. As the audience watches Rey awaken, what is important is not her lineage, but her connection with the Force. In fact, continued discussions about Rey's mother and father tend to downplay Rey's power as something passed down, of which she is a passive recipient. Rather than acknowledging the rather tremendous (and strangely controlled, considering Luke's origin story) moment of Rey's awakening, fans appear to be focused on the occasion of Rey's actual, physical birth. This may be a good moment for us to remember that the movie is not called The Force is Born.

While the stories of the original series and the prequels were tied up in the saga of a single family, the films have always largely been about power and balance. The Force. Mythology envisioned through a family line was important, but now is an excellent time for J.J. Abrams and the Star Wars universe to take a step away from some of the ideas of the past and into a new arena where women are actualized and fully realized participants. To fully balance The Force, one must acknowledge its existence outside of the stories we've already seen. These are but a small sliver of the larger universe, and it's time for the films to acknowledge how the Skywalker/Solo/Organa trio fits into something much larger than themselves.

Incidentally, I think (or hope?) it is -- which is why Rey's genealogy does not matter. My theory?  Rey's genetic line is an intentional distraction from her origin story that we glimpse when she first touches Luke's lightsaber and her mental walls begin to falter. There are three key images in her vision: A world on its side, the Knights of Ren massacre, and Kylo Ren in the forest. My theory? Rey's a survivor of the massacre, a padawan learner hidden from herself and others. This explains the familial-like connections and protective natures of Solo and Organa, while still allowing that Rey is not, in fact, family. If mental walls were used to protect Rey and they began to falter once she touched the lightsaber, Kylo Ren's awkward fumbling brought everything down so that Rey could tap into her own, partially-trained, power.

It also allows for a fairly entrenched story to stretch outside of its previous grounding - and restore balance to a universe in which there are far more stories to tell. Remember, after all, these tales come from  Disney, who intends to spend many, many years telling them. Am I right? I guess we wait and find out. Chances are good Disney will stick with the Skywalker saga. It's like an old, comfortable pair of shoes worth over $4 billion. But if Disney wants to continue creating compelling films, they might consider breaking out of patriarchal story lines and trying something new. I think that General Leia would approve.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

7th grade: Missteps, mistakes, and grace

Monkeymoo survived 6th grade.

I'd say "And she has the picture to prove it" but I don't even know what this is.

It wasn't easy. There was a lot going on, which Monkeymoo can one day share, or not. It's hers, not mine to disclose. But I wanted to take a moment to update my Middle School Mania post from a year ago.

I want to start by saying that post might not have been fair. I can't help but feel that I might not have been fair and here's why: In addition to being these amazing, wonderful, surprising, snarky, and occasionally growling people, our tweens are still kids.

And as such, they can and do behave like kids, poking into areas they might not when they grow into better judgment and behaving in ways that aren't necessarily the greatest. As much as we might think our kids couldn't or wouldn't do such things, they can. And will. Because being a complete and fully realized human requires screwing up. It just does.

A friend told me last year that they have to be allowed to make mistakes. She's right. Even big ones. Even mistakes that are ouchy for those around them. Because those mistakes add up in the experience column to create cool people.

I hope that my daughter won't make mistakes that hurt others. But if she does, I wish for two things: That she has the ability to say I'm sorry and that those around her have the grace to embrace her accidents and apologies.

Seventh grade is better, so far. Monkeymoo and the friend she had so many troubles with are back together again, and in the meantime, she expanded her friend circle and became a little more social. Last year was tough - painful even.

But there will be a lot of years like that and each time, as it always does, it will get better.

Monday, November 9, 2015

And so it is #internetbreak(nah) #sunshineandagoodbook

Nine months since my last post. I'd like to say it's been nine months of creative writing and creation and parenting and all the good things in the universe. But if we're being honest here (and we usually are), it's probably been nine months of Candy Crush and Facebook and that should make you as sad as it should make me. I'm thinking on it - and blogging, and professional blogging, and creative writing.

It's NaNoWriMo. Several years ago, I wrote my heart out for NaNoWriMo. This year, I'll be lucky to cough out a few blog posts here and there. But I will try, I promise.

In the meantime, I wanted to share something. It's worth the read - so much so, in fact, that I'm breaking my hiatus to ask you to read it. And I'm not writing anything else at this moment. I'll be back soon.

The Guardian: Neil Gaiman

Now please accept this photo of some people who eat up a whole bunch of my time, but who inspire me to return to the library, to reading, to quiet times with a good book, and to anything, dare I say it, but Youtube clips of people playing games or endless Pinterest scrolling. All of us have to get back to something that doesn't scroll.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Observer Effect and Parenting

The Observer Effect: (From Wikipedia)
  1. In science, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner.

I've always been intrigued by the observer effect - the idea that looking at something, measuring something, somehow changes  what is being measured.

And then I had kids and the observer effect took over all sorts of pieces of our lives. Our newborns didn't sleep. And so we wanted sleep and watched their sleep. And the more closely we watched it, the worse it was. This same phenomenon comes time and time and time again. Food. Attitudes. Television consumption. Cleaning.

We plug in and suddenly everything feels like it's going to hell in a handbasket. But we observe, because there's some deep and abiding belief that observing is what makes us good parents.

But what if, sometimes, just sometimes, the observer effect is making everything worse? What if our oversight - of eating, sleeping, homework, and relationships puts added outside stress on our kids when they can least handle it or when they'd benefit most by being ignored.

To be fair, I'm not talking about radical rejection of my kids' lives. I'm talking about a bit of benign neglect - times when looking the other way allows them the frustrations and opportunities for growth.

At the playground, for example. Maybe reading a book or checking my e-mail on my phone isn't so bad, as my 4 year old struggles to climb the rock wall. Maybe making my pre-teen negotiate her own academic relationships with teachers is what's important, rather than checking the gradebook constantly.

Maybe just maybe one of the hardest aspects of parenting is not watching.

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