Young Adult: Overcoming the Splits

•October 15, 2013 • 3 Comments

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Poster

The screenwriter, Cody Diablo, takes great pleasure in lampooning her protagonist, perhaps because, with the passage of time, it’s easier to laugh at a younger version of oneself. As the sequel to Jennifer’s Body, it revisits many of the same themes and dilemmas but, this time, it’s told from a more “grown up” point of view.

In the place of Needy and Jennifer is Mavis Gary, a 30-something ghostwriter of young adult novels (which means she never gets credit for her work). On a whim, after receiving an email from Buddy, her high school boyfriend, she returned to Mercury, MN, her hometown. The two of them were destined to be together, at least that’s what she once believed, even though he was already married.

All Cleaned Up

The power of her belief was transformative: when she went to meet him, she was a completely different person, no longer draped in the worn and familiar (like her favorite "Hello Kitty" t-shirt). As she waited, her phone became a worry stone and talisman, her lifeline to Buddy and the life that could be theirs. She’d already concluded they had “textual chemistry,” evident in the timing of their communications, something she yearned to manifest in real life.

Her sartorial shift reflected the profound gap between a life of misery and the ecstatic vision of what was possible with him: when her love was allowed to blossom and provided fertile ground to grow.

The Fire      Reflecting Looking Back

For those familiar with astrology, this return to Mercury is recognizable as the retrograde movement of the planet of communication. As ruler of the third house, Mercury is associated with childhood environments and the acquisition of new knowledge and wisdom; as ruler of the sixth house, it’s also associated with health and the skills necessary for maintaining one’s well-being.

The principle of return is found in Jennifer’s Body too: the story that Needy re-told from the darkness of her prison. In Young Adult, it’s evident with Mavis acquiring a new understanding that was unavailable to her before. For better or worse, only a certain amount of distance and a new perspective enables such a change.

These qualities would be especially important for all involved, since several splits are revealed, only one of them belonging to Mavis herself. While in Mercury, she’d witness two men struggling with dangerous schisms, perhaps even as profound as the split that she’d come to call her own.

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Millennium

•August 10, 2013 • 2 Comments

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Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
Through faith we understand that the world was crated by the word of God,
and that what is seen was not made of things that are visible.
– from the Diary of the Missing Girl

Poster

Although their target is Evil incarnate, the tagline isn’t quite correct. In a different context, their methods might even come across as boring. But through the liberal use of movie magic, his bookish facility with words and her savviness tapping into communications that travel through air, the two form a partnership to solve the puzzle at the heart of this story.

Despite this shared commitment, the pose is also misleading since they’re rarely together. This is especially true in the second and third installments of the trilogy, where they do not come face-to-face until the final frame. The alliance forged in the beginning takes them on separate paths, each battling the agents of darkness that seek to remain hidden, shielded from the light of day.

This occlusion – veiled and concealed – is perpetrated by the English title of the film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, choosing to forego the Swedish original which directly named the Evil that they fought: Men Who Hate Women.

But the English title isn’t completely inappropriate. After all, the “girl” is the protagonist and her tattoo is a defining feature of her persona. For like many others who modify their bodies – either through the use of ink or painful incisions – these marks trace the outline a deeply personal roadmap of where the body has been and what it’s survived. They’re a testament of what she’s weathered and how she’s changed: an indication of where (and how) she’s drawn her strength.

This fortification will serve her well, since she’s also forced to revisit the flames of the past (The Girl Who Played with Fire) and defend herself against accusations of murder (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, in Swedish: The Air-Castle That Was Exploded). In other words, the Millennium Trilogy traces her movement through the elements, made incendiary by men seeking to protect their interests – and their secrets – through the use of violence and force.

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The Woman Who Dreamed about a Man

•July 11, 2013 • 1 Comment

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PosterIt’s an unusual portrait for marketing the film. For if it’s about a woman and her dream about a man, why is she taking a picture of a naked woman instead?

Perhaps it’s because she’s a photographer, using the camera to capture bits of the world that catch her attention. She’s also a choreographer, arranging props and models to recreate the image in her mind’s eye, replicating in the material world what already exists on another plane.

One might say that the model’s an astral projection, evidence of a kind of travel not visible to the physical eye. This usually occurs when asleep or in a trance. And since the photographer is clearly not asleep, we can only conclude that she’s entranced: a “lesser” samadhi, that serves as a vehicle from one state of existence to another.

In short, it’s a sign of her spiritual evolution.

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Sucker Punch: The Path of the Goddess (II)

•January 20, 2013 • 1 Comment

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Salutations to She who is terrible, to She who is eternal.
Salutations to Gauri, the supporter of the universe.
Salutations always to She who is the form of the moon
and moonlight and happiness itself.
Salutations to the consort of Shiva who is herself the
good fortune as well as misfortune of kings.

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Sucker Punch

Watching a film about scantily clad women fighting demons and monsters might feel a little creepy, as if one had stepped into the fantasy of a pimple-faced boy. And yet, this most unlikely of scenarios has become a staple, as more and more movie screens are filled with beasts and villains being slain by female warriors who don’t mind showing a little skin.

Strange as it may seem, this trend continues an ancient tradition where women – even girls – are praised for their fortitude in battling the frightening and absurd. For example, the Devi Mahatyam (“Glory of the Goddess”), one of the central texts of the Shakta tradition, involves three sets of battles in which the Goddess fights demons from the underworld.

The names of the Goddess reflect a mix violence and sex that seems more at home in comic books than a time-honored spiritual tradition. On the one hand, the Goddess’ names celebrate Her ferociousness: Black Night of Destruction, She Who Creates Fear and Awe, She Who Loves to Drink Blood, She Who Is the Slayer of Demons, She Who Has a Terrible Roar, She Who Destroys Belief, and She Who Destroys Passion. On the other hand, Her names also emphasize Her sensuality: She Who Is Intoxicated with Delight, She Who Enjoys Ecstatic Oneness with the One Who Sees, She Who Overflows with Pleasure, She Whose Eyes are Full of Desire, and She Who Is Absorbed by Lingam and Yoni.

But more important than this, the Goddess is celebrated as the one who brings enlightenment to the devoted. In this quite different vein, she is known as: She Who Removes the Darkness of Mind, She Who Lives between Two Eyes, She Who Gives Ultimate Wisdom, She Who Bestows Moksha, She Who Is the Mother of the World, and She Who Carries Across the Ocean of Samsara.

With this intriguing mix of traits, it might be tempting to pick and choose, hoping for a personal goddess who’s easier to worship and celebrate. But if the sacred texts are to be believed, each of these aspects are necessary since, in the end, it’s the combination of Her Wrath and Her Grace that paves the way to Liberation and Everlasting Bliss.

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The Lovely Bones: Working with the Elements (I)

•October 2, 2012 • 1 Comment

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I wasn’t gone.
I was alive in my own perfect world.
But in my heart, I knew it wasn’t perfect.
My murderer still haunted me.

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Susie Ruth

Since this tale revolves around a divided pair that unites after a long and arduous journey, it’s fair to ask: who are these girls, and how did they get separated? While the split might be quite confusing, the answer isn’t that difficult. There are many who live divided lives: one half in light, the other in the shadows.

Who was Susie if not the girl whose life was interrupted when she was just a child? And what were her yearnings, if not the passions she was never able to fulfill? Her locker and bedroom were plastered with portraits of the idol who captured her heart, posters celebrating the possibility of world peace, and tributes to the miracle of love. She also wanted to become a photographer. Once upon a time, that had been her ambition.

And who was Ruth if not the girl who was forced into the dark, compelled to make sense of a crime long before she was able to complete that task? And what was her isolation if not a sign of that impossibility, grappling with the weight of tragedy and unable to think of anything else? Why else would she leave her home and live by the sinkhole, wearing a uniform that signaled her estrangement? If anyone came to know her, they’d probably discover that she fashioned her own tarot deck, seeking answers for the hole in the earth, a deep pit of meaningless and despair.

Two girls. Forever divided. One immersed in the dreams of childhood, the other stuck in the blackness of night. Two sets of feelings, two ways of interacting with the world – an ego and her alter – forced to live together while unable to connect. The only thing holding them together was the face of evil, hidden and obscured, a painful riddle waiting to be solved.

Susie Clouds Susie Water

The In Between is where this self-estrangement is finally overcome. Ruth couldn’t do it without Susie’s help, but neither could Susie without Ruth’s discipline and care. Both sides traumatized by the perfect storm, the confluence of elements that brought life as it existed to a violent end: Susie transported to another place, stuck between hell and heaven; Ruth haunted by the memory of a ghost caught in the throes of death.

At key moments during Susie’s trek, she’s confronted by each of the elements. And because her life gained meaning in relation to certain people, the workings of the elements are traced out in those relationships as well: each an opportunity to learn about the nature of fire, water, air, or earth. For in learning about the elements through these others, she’s can learn how to recognize them in herself as well.

“In Between” can mean undecided; it can also mean halfway or in transition. Spiritual traditions have distinct names for this, although each points to a common experience: purgatory, in which those blessed by grace are made ready for heaven; bardo, the liminal state between death and rebirth; the five koshas, sheaths or coverings that veil Atman, the true Self; or the Sat Kancukas, the five limitations that act like entanglements or armor but which, if properly apprehended, lead the way to illumination and release.

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Jennifer’s Body: Pratyahara

•May 17, 2012 • 4 Comments

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Meditation

Since nadis are channels, those caught in a cul-de-sac find themselves in a rut that’s virtually impossible to escape. For nadis are like rivers that slowly carve a path into the earth, becoming more and more entrenched with the passage of time. Due to the accumulation of force, redirecting the river requires tremendous effort, something that’s possible only when life itself is threatened, like when a river swells in the wake of a hurricane.

However impossible it may have seemed, this is exactly what Needy accomplished: reclaiming what had once been lost. In killing her Other (the girl whose name began with J but who was really closer to K), she was able to reroute the force that had been stuck. This is also how Needy came to be transformed into someone else.

But where did she find the strength to redirect a river?
And how did she manage to calm Kicker’s force?

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Incendies: The Will of Our Mother

•March 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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The Reading of Her Will

The twins thought they knew their father, but they were in for a rude awakening. Their mother had always spoken of her one true love: her face, her very being, would shift when she remembered him. The ruler of her heart, the one who died before their birth. They’d never met the man, but they owed their very existence to the love he and their mother shared.

But speaking through the Notary, their mother would negate everything they held to be true. Two blows in the form of two requests, exploding everything to shreds: Jeanne’s to deliver a letter to her father, someone other than their mother’s one true love, and Simon’s to deliver a letter to a brother he never knew he had.

Suddenly, the story of their life was changed: their birth no longer connected to the brightest moments of their mother’s life, and a brother who has equal claim to their mother. No longer was it just the two of them. In light of this revelation, their family had just grown by two.

Impasse (Going Nowhere Together)

The reaction of the twins couldn’t have been more different.

For Simon, the news is unwanted, especially since burial rights were given to another. (Notary Jean Lebel will bury me without a coffin, naked and without prayers: my face turned toward the ground, my back against the world.) Rather than her own children, the Notary controlled their mother’s fate, instructed to bury her corpse in a shroud of shame. Adding insult to injury, strangers from a previous life were uppermost in her mind when she died – asking him to deliver a letter – trumping his own need to mourn her death.

Jeanne wanted to honor their mother’s request, unwilling to simply move on by placing their mother in a tomb. Simon said she felt too much guilt: for her absence when their mother died, and for her presence in their mother’s "accident" at the swimming pool. Whether or not he was right, she insisted upon looking for her (unknown) father, for that’s what their mother had asked.

This is how the twins came to be separated – children of a woman who sought refuge from the ravages of war – giving way to two journeys that, after crossing an ocean, would finally fulfill the wishes of the dead.

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The Lovely Bones: Samadhi vs. the Time of the Clock

•January 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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Clock, n.
         an instrument for measuring and recording time, especially by mechanical
         means: not designed to be worn or carried about

Clock, v.
         to strike sharply or heavily

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Clock

It’s one of the greatest inventions of mankind. At first, it was oversized and ugly; only the wealthy could afford them. Since then, everyone came to own one, made into ornaments that speak of the qualities desired by those that wear them. What began as an exclusive possession came to be democratized, and collective life no longer had to be ruled by the the peal of bells or the squeal of sirens that marked the passage of time. Instead, a new Era emerged: the clock wormed itself into the bedroom and latched onto the bodies of millions across the face of the earth.

Sociologists would describe this as part of a larger transformation: the emergence of mass society where life came to be defined by the rhythm of the machine. Even night was colonized: time chopped into shifts to maximize profit in pursuit of the American Dream. So important was this that a universal standard was established at the "center" of the world (Greenwich Mean Time), and with this shift space was colonized as well: distant places and climes calibrated to a single machine.

Perhaps this is why dictionaries warn of the danger of the clock, noting that it should not be worn or carried. Perhaps it’s also why, as a verb, the word has come to be used to describe an assault. It’s almost as if somewhere (in the shadows, perhaps?) there’s evidence that the clock’s triumph brought a certain danger: that hidden in the folds of its precision, unseen demons lay in wait.

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The Secret: Breaking the Silence

•December 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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SACRED (noun)
from pp. of obsolete verb sacren "to make holy," from Latin sacer "sacred, dedicated, holy, accursed," from Old Latin saceres which some connect to the base *saq- "bind, restrict, enclose, protect."

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poster

It’s almost as if they forgot their wedding vows, the limit of any marriage: "until death do you part." For even after she died, she found a way to return by taking over the life and body of her daughter.
A child displaced.

For this, she cannot be blamed. Very few have been taught about death, let alone how to embrace it. Even fewer recognize the fact of their passing, caught instead in a fog of unknowing: frantic about what has come of them, left grasping for certainties where none exist, desperately hoping to replace the ground that’s suddenly been lost.

After a while, she’ll recognize the haze that surrounds her as part of the Bardo state: it’s what happens to the mind when life comes to an end. Failure to recognize it is the greatest danger, although this happens to the best of us. Surrounded by confusing visions that make it virtually impossible to give coherence to what’s come to pass.

Taking over the life and body of her daughter was a split-second decision, an impulse that came on the heels of death. It’s this choice that created a new alliance, prolonging a marriage already at its end: both unwilling to accept the tragedy of her dying, both unable to let her go. From this comes a certain silence, a pact between a grieving husband and the spirit of his wife who now appears as his daughter.

Somehow, the stalemate needs to be broken so as to allowing the flow of life to begin again. It’ll require undoing the pact they share, despite the fear of what such a deed might bring. Until then, both are caught in the In-Between: bound by an untold secret that has yet to be heard.

But which secret is the most binding?  Which one hasn’t been told?

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Chaotic Ana: Liberation

•November 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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Taking His Hand

While there are many threads to her story, at its center is a story of love and the man around which her life came to revolve. All she had wanted was to follow him.

They had just met moments earlier, when she was working with her hands and with colors. And what she felt in him struck deep, as if she were an instrument and he was her playing. Soon she would learn that he rarely rested, haunted by dreams that kept him awake, as if there were too many doors he couldn’t keep shut. She, on the other hand, had no such trouble. If anything, besides her daydreams, she rarely dreamt at all.

Despite this difference, they were on the brink of something momentous, as if each realized they’d never truly loved before. As they began their journey, she wondered whether he’d be the one to help open the doors of her consciousness. If there were anyone she’d want to help with that task, it would be no one else but him.

Bliss

What soon followed was nothing short of heaven: the intimacy of skin and the pleasure of their exertion. Maybe it was then that she gave her heart to him.

But she also witnessed the torment of which he spoke; the things that kept him up at night. Contrary to her intuitions, he told her he was living in the light. The only problem was the end. There was nothing there: an emptiness so complete, that it left him swallowed by darkness and gasping for breath, as his very life would come to an end.

She tried to console him. They had met each other, after all. Perhaps the "nothing" wasn’t as empty as he thought. Something had to be there. He should be patient. The answer would come. He would see.

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