The Lovely Bones: The History of Longing

•November 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Yearning

If there’s anything the characters of this story share, it’s the fact of their longing. In different ways, each yearns for completion, grasping at someone or something that will fill the hole of emptiness that’s exists within.

Susie yearned for the protection and security of a father, a need made more urgent after her banishment to the In-Between. Ray Singh yearned for Susie, devastated by her death and the interruption of their love. Susie’s mother disappeared, in search of the self she lost in a loveless marriage. Susie’s father clung to the memory of his dead daughter, a symbol representing the magnitude of his loss.

And the Murderer. He also yearned, just like everyone else. What made him different was treating his hunger like an imperative, even if it meant destroying the life of a child. Such is the nature of evil: treating the other like an object, only to be disposed of later, like a pile of trash.
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LB Payoff 1-Sheet.REV1All of the characters also yearned for Susie. In some way, each stood in the place of the Murderer and his shadow, yearning for her light. (The comparison might not be flattering but it doesn’t make it any less true.)

After Susie’s death, Ray Singh behaved as if his life had come to an end, unable to live without the girl to whom he declared his love. Susie’s father was equally obsessed, desperately clinging to the memory of his daughter. And Susie’s mother, she too would collapse, once she learned of Susie’s death.

Each of them plunged into a cloud of darkness, grasping, as if Susie alone held the power to dissipate their grief.

The question is: if she was so privileged (as their “light”), where did that leave Susie? Who or what could she turn to after her life came to an end?

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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 • Leave a Comment

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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 • 3 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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