Seeing oneself as a hero – a Theological Interpretation

Thank you, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, for once again providing an evening filled with humor, truth, wit, and insight at the 2015 Golden Globes. I oftentimes get bored during awards shows, especially when I haven’t seen most of the fare which has been nominated, but last night kept my attention for the entire three hours. Part of it was that gifted duo of hosts, part was watching with my teen daughter and explaining things that were out of her realm of understanding (and hearing her talk about how lucky Fey and Poehler’s kids were to have the coolest moms anywhere – no offense taken on my part), but the biggest part for me was the affirmation of people who were not considered mainstream being celebrated in Hollywood.

Women last night once again proved they bring the funny. They proved they are more than the designer they wore. They spoke about rape culture and changing the discourse. They celebrated the trans culture. They spoke about freedom of expression. Common, co-winner with John Legend of best song for “Glory” in the movie Selma, identified himself as the woman on the back of the bus needing a seat, as the kid needing a hand when he received a bullet, and as a cop being shot in the line of duty. They spoke about unity and the right to self-expression. And one woman spoke about being a hero. Gina Rodriguez, star of the new CW show, Jane the Virgin, surprised many by winning best actress in a TV Comedy. It was the first award of the night, and left me in complete tears. “This award is so much more than myself. It represents a culture that wants to see itself as heroes.”

Heroes – not as outsiders, interlopers, immigrants, undocumented, unwanted, a drain on a white nation of heroes modeled after John Wayne. Heroes.

One of the best parts of the Gospel message is that Jesus was an unexpected hero. He hailed from the backwoods of Galilee, born of unwed parents, lived in poverty, hung around with some dodgy sorts, and angered the righteous, upright citizens who had all the power. He came for the outcasts – the ones neglected, abused, or cast away by good society. He came for those who lived on the fringes, denied access or acceptance. He confided in and trusted people who were seen as unworthy or unimportant – women, non-Jews, puppets of the Empire, lepers, and so many more. Jesus told each person they were a special child of God, loved by God. He told them they were meant to be a hero.

One thing I love about my job is the great diversity of the young women with whom I work. I am thrilled to see a young Latina woman, the first in her family to go to college, realize she can be a hero. Even if she still gets mistaken for a maid when she stays at a hotel to present a paper for an academic conference, even if some men only want to talk about her body, even if people assume she is undocumented – she is a hero, and she will inspire me and countless others.

Thank God for the heroes, and for the ones who teach me everyday.

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Sleepy Hollow, The Bible, and Women

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           Every summer I thoroughly peruse the promos for new television shows. One stood out this past August – primarily because I thought it was in the top 10 of ridiculous premises ever proposed. Ichabod Crane (of the famous story penned by Washington Irving) wakes from the dead in modern day Sleepy Hollow, NY. It turns out he was Gen. George Washington’s primary soldier in the fight against biblical evil during the Revolutionary War while history has only recorded the colonies’ fight for independence from the British Crown. Crane discovers he is meant to stop the horsemen of the Apocalypse, and is partnered in this battle with Det. Abbie Mills. Chaos ensues.

             This ludicrous premise led to my favorite show of the season – and ratings reveal that I am not alone in this love. The last of 13 episodes aired Monday night, and now we all wait impatiently and spout various theories concerning the cliff-hangers until next Fall. This show has captured the affection of viewers and critics alike. Gifted actors, compelling action, entertaining humor, angst and drama, surprising historical revelations, and unpredictable storylines have contributed to this surprise hit. It also helps that the guys behind the show are in the JJ Abrams circle, working on shows like Lost and Fringe. These guys understand spirituality and well-rounded characters, especially women.

             I love all these different aspects of the show, but two areas provide particular interest for me – the treatment of the Bible and the place of women in this world. First, in regards to the Bible, it is used as a guidebook for how Crane and Mills can combat the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (see book of Revelation if this doesn’t sound familiar to you). I daresay Revelation has been the part of the Bible most appropriated by Hollywood. And of course, it’s never accurate, but that’s beside the point when someone is looking for good inspiration for a fictional story. The writers and viewers both are aware that this interpretation is fictional and outlandish, but I appreciate how the Bible and faith are treated with respect. The clergy are strong individuals, endeavoring to fight evil at whatever costs. Crane and Mills use their extensive knowledge of the scriptures to help in their quest.

             Second, it is such a pleasant change to see strong, independent, articulate, and smart women characters who are not defined by their relationship to a man. (Tom Mison, who plays Crane, even stated this was one of the draws to this show for him.) In addition to Mills (portrayed by an engaging Nicole Beharie), there is her sister Jenny, Crane’s wife Katrina, and Capt. Irving’s wife. What makes it even better is the fact that most these women are African-American. Abbie Mills’ defining relationship is not the past romance with a fellow cop, but the great love she has for her sister. In the season finale, she even tells Jenny – “I will not lose you again.” Tears came to my eyes – sisterly love is a beautiful and powerful thing. When a woman normally says these words on tv, it’s too her “soul-mate,” the romantic love of her life who completes her. (And please don’t get me started right now on the soul-mate/complete my life baloney that Hollywood dishes out. I’ll rant about that in a future blog.)

             On paper, this show shouldn’t work. But it has – in an overwhelming way. I hope other shows will follow suit. Be imaginative, respectful, and treat women as the well-rounded, intelligent, and independent people we are.

             I can’t wait until next September.