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Judge the Adaptation on Its Own Merits

I would posit that it is less relevant what an adaptation of any given classic story does differently from or the same as the original, and more important whether or not it does it well.

Take Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Aside from the names of the characters and the barest skeleton of a plot, it bears little resemblance to Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris. For all that, it is still a good movie, with some superb visuals, an excellent score, and, yes, a satisfying Disney ending in which the bad guy gets his comeuppance, a valuable lesson is learned, and our heroes live happily ever after. As a direct translation of Hugo's work from page to screen, it fails miserably - but arguably, that was never the point. Disney's film is not a simple reproduction of Hugo's work, but a new work unto itself.

At the heart of "adaptation" is the word "adapt" - to change or modify in order to fit new circumstances. These may be as simple as a change in medium - from page to screen, or from screen to stage - but they may also include a change in audience, or in the aims of the author, all of which are valid. The idea that a story, once completed, must be preserved forever in its originally published form is antithetical to the creative process. Stories, like popular culture more broadly, are not static, but continue to be reinterpreted and re-envisioned in the collective imagination, and every so often one of these reinterpretations makes its way to the screen or to print.

Sometimes they are very similar to the original, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are very good, and sometimes they are very bad. By no means are the two one and the same.


Rights in Conflict

One occasionally hears an objection to, or at least a reservation about the legalization of gay marriage along the lines that it would lead to anti-discrimination lawsuits being brought against churches who refused to marry gay couples. This hypothesis is usually dismissed as unlikely on the basis that the 1st Amendment would still be in place and churches would thus still be free to define marriage however they liked and act accordingly.

This is not a wholly unreasonable assumption. Any such lawsuit would seem to come across as mere bullying, and even a constitutionally established right for any two consenting adults to marry would not, given strict interpretation, entail a constitutional right for any two consenting adults to be married in a church.

But lest we think that those who are genuinely concerned about this scenario are mere fear mongers, I would like to point out that a woman's right to use contraception - which you will find nowhere in the constitution - is currently being used by the Obama administration to justify their attempts to force religious institutions to provide their employees with contraception, regardless of any moral objections they might have. I highly doubt that anyone could have seen that coming when contraception was first being legalized. And yet, here we are.

Use of contraception has been widely accepted and unquestionably legal for nearly fifty years. In that time, it has gone from an issue of privacy and individual choice to, in the eyes of some, an inalienable right that takes precedence over the freedom of religion - all without ever being codified as a right at all. If gay marriage were legalized at the federal level - by constitutional amendment or by Supreme Court decision - how much more quickly would it be decided that this new right also superseded the right of churches to freely exercise their own doctrine? We're already seeing "If you don't like abortion, don't get one - but pay for mine," and "If you don't like contraception, don't use it - but provide it to me." Why is "If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married - but officiate my gay wedding" so impossibly far-fetched?

A friend of mine posted the following quote (without citation, though I suspect it is not her own) on Facebook today:

"Giving someone equal rights does not infringe or take away rights from you. It just makes it illegal to enforce your prejudice and hate. It's that simple."

Except, of course, that it's never that simple. As loaded as words such as "hate" and "equality" are, the most crucial and yet most inconsistently understood idea of all is that of "rights". But sometimes, they do come in conflict.

Movie Trailers

Between this "dark sci-fi comedy" about Space Nazis (whose leader is, no joke, "the Moon Fürher"):

And the film adaptation of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter:

It's looking like 2012 is the year for fans of vaguely historical cheesy sci-fi action movies.

There are other fans of vaguely historical cheesy sci-fi action movies out there, right?

Loosely inspired by Mat. 13:45-46

Imagine a library of some importance, with an extensive collection. Imagine, if you will, that among the items in this collection is a manuscript of great historical significance, that is very old and thus very fragile. This manuscript would naturally be highly valued and widely sought after by historians looking to study it. The library, however, will have very strict policies about who may handle the manuscript and how and when. Researchers will not be able to remove the manuscript from the library, but must examine it in a special reading room. When it is not in use, the manuscript will be stored in a secure location, probably under low light and with careful climate control to prevent its decay.

Next imagine an art museum that owns a world-renowned painting. The museum will have guards and alarm systems to prevent theft. The painting will be displayed under specific conditions – perhaps behind glass, or under a certain type of light – whatever the museum curators decide best preserves and presents it. If the painting is very popular with museum visitors, one might have to wait in a long line to see it, or only be allowed to view it for a few minutes at a time. Photography may be permitted, but flash will almost certainly be forbidden.

Now imagine a woman who owns a diamond necklace that belonged to her great-grandmother. She will handle it delicately and only wear it for special occasions. She may keep it under lock and key, or even in a safety deposit box in a bank. Imagine that this woman has a young daughter. She may show her this family treasure and explain to her that it will be hers someday, but she will certainly not hand it down until her daughter is old enough for the responsibility. If the daughter were to take the necklace without permission, her mother would undoubtedly be very upset.

The Catholic Church has many rules about sex. She has rules about who can have sex and how and when. Sometimes this means waiting a very long time. Sometimes this means not doing things that might seem like a good idea. Why all these rules? Is it because the Catholic Church sees sex as something evil or dirty? Does she merely seek arbitrary control over her followers? No. It is because sex is our ancient manuscript, our priceless work of art, our heirloom jewels. Sex is something beautiful and sacred which must be protected from decay and abuse. The rules of the Catholic Church are no more arbitrary than those of the librarian, the curator, or the diamond owner.

If the library permitted anyone to handle the manuscript however they pleased, it would quickly be destroyed. If the museum did not employ crowd control, most people would only ever see the painting from afar. If the woman wore her diamond necklace everywhere, it would be much more likely to be lost or stolen. These rules at first might seem to inhibit our enjoyment of these treasures – we want to thumb through those pages, to look at that painting for hours, to wear that beautiful jewelry all the time. But were we allowed to, we’d quickly discover that this ruins them.

Sex is even more precious than all these things, and even more fragile. Handled properly, sex is the physical and spiritual union of a husband and wife, the most complete and perfect bond they can share, which permanently ties them to each other through the children they produce. It might seem old-fashioned to wait until marriage. It might seem like fun to have a multitude of sexual partner. It might seem attractive to have all the physical pleasure of sex without having to take on the responsibility of parenthood. But all these are perversions, which can only cheapen the act. Instead of a sacred conjugal union, sex becomes just one more box on a checklist of compatibility. Instead of a unique bond with one’s spouse, sex becomes a recreational activity we will share with almost anyone. Instead of a complete and fruitful act of love, sex becomes meaningless physical gratification.

We see this attitude manifest in many of the popular arguments against the Church’s teachings on chastity. “What’s the big deal?” “It’s a necessary bodily function.” “It’s only sex.” The modern man is shown an ancient manuscript in a state of such disrepair it is illegible and says, “What’s the big deal?” He looks at a masterpiece from a distance and says, “It’s an arrangement of oils on canvas.” He sees a precious heirloom every day and says, “It’s only a necklace.”

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, rejects this reductive line of thinking. She insists that sex is a big deal, and can not be treated as anything less valuable. She teaches that sex is so much more than a bodily function, and should be so much more fulfilling. She sees the phrase “It’s only sex” as absurd as “It’s only a treasure.” Far from wanting to hide this treasure away from us or limit our enjoyment of it, the Catholic Church gives us all these rules to guide us in exercising our sexuality in the most perfect way possible. She gives us these rules for chastity for the same reason she gives us the rules for humility, patience, or charity: to help us lead lives of virtue, be the most perfect versions of ourselves we can be, and please Our Heavenly Father with our efforts, so that one day we may enter into his kingdom. And this, truly, is a treasure of immeasurable worth.


New userpic, new country

I've resisted the idea of having a fandom-y userpic as my default, but this one is just too perfect. Anyway, it isn't even obviously fandom-y. Most people probably wouldn't be able to tell that it's Molly from Sherlock - who, incidentally, is a brilliant character. There's some absolutely fantastic writing and acting there (as there is for almost the whole show, really, but Molly seems a bit under-appreciated and I have a soft spot for that sort of thing).

In somewhat more consequential news, I've up and moved again and will be in the UAE until May. Someday I'll spend six consecutive months in one country again. But not now. Oh, and I'm going to Oman in two weeks.

Merry Christmas

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. (Jn 1:1-5)

Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds - El Greco

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:14)


My Political Beliefs

Where My Strengths and Weaknesses Lie

My Academic Plans: You have two years to write a 40-page thesis paper.


My Academic Plans: Oh yeah, you also have two years to achieve proficiency in Arabic.

Me: Yeah, ok, that's not a big deal.

First World Problems

I'm currently juggling classes, Bible study, volunteer work, Catholic fellowship, homework, career planning and breathing. I've taken up studying Arabic, which is the first time I've started seriously studying a new language in years (my brief experimentations with Hebrew, German and Spanish don't count as real study). I'm also taking a class on Law & Society, which is absolutely maddening. My other classes are all great, at least - and I really love Arabic. I'm planning to make it my minor.

I'm also trying to decide whether or not to spend next semester in Abu Dhabi - there are serious academic and professional reasons both to go and to stay in New York. I've sent in the application, but I'm kind of hoping I don't get accepted into the program, just so someone else will make the decision and I won't have to.

In short, I love college, but it's pretty stressful.