What’s My Line at the Federalist

My latest piece at The Federalist is now up, where I talk about the old gameshow What’s My Line?

Sample:

No one on the “What’s My Line” panel would have dreamt of asking a guest about his sex life, nor would the guests have dreamt of talking about it. But if they can see for themselves that a young lady is beautiful or a man is black, they didn’t think anything about acknowledging the fact. Noting physical appearance is considered perfectly normal, even polite, because it isn’t as if it were a private matter.

We, on the other hand, are so terrified of “judging” someone by physical appearance that it’s become considered rude to even acknowledge it, even though we find we can hardly think or talk about anything else.

 

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Dating and Disney

New CatholicMatch Post is up, where I get to talk about Mr. Disney and plug my book. Check it out here (the post, not the book. Check that out here).

Sample:

Had Mr. Disney waited until he was financially secure with the time to dedicate to romance, he probably would never have married. For most of his life, his own and his company’s finances were in a very precarious state, and he was constantly working himself to near exhaustion. But he made the time to court and marry his wife, and he made the time to be with his children. For most of his career, in spite of his tremendous workload, he managed to come home for dinner almost every night, drive his girls to school every morning, and set aside at least one whole day a week to spend with his family.

In his family as with his films, Mr. Disney saw what he wanted and made the effort necessary to get it, even if it was a risk, even if it seemed impractical or imprudent. He didn’t wait around until he was ‘secure;’ he made himself secure by constantly going after what he wanted.

 

Fairy Tales Post at Catholic Match

I like this one. Fairy Tales are near and dear to my heart and it annoys me to no end when people attack them or sneer at them for silly reasons.

It’s an odd thing about fairy tales—they’re always under attack, yet they always survive. Like Snow White, they are constantly being threatened by proud malevolence, yet they’re always finding shelter among the noble and humble, and even when they seem dead, they keep coming back.

The attacks have been much the same since at least the Victorian era (when, as Prof. Tolkien said, they gravitated to the nursery along with the old furniture)—fairy tales are ‘unrealistic,’ childish, silly, ‘escapism,’ and so on. More recently, they’re ‘sexist’ and create unrealistic expectations, especially with regard to romance.

All this, I think, is very silly. True, it’s easy to deconstruct a fairy tale. It’s also easy to deconstruct a Ming vase, but doing so says more about you than about the art of Chinese pottery. Fairy tales simply aren’t built to stand up to that kind of criticism because they’re meant to do other and more important things

Read the whole thing here.

And, if that makes you interested in reading more about the deeper ideas in fairy tales and similar stories, you might like to check out a certain book that just came out:

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Wisdom of Walt Disney is Live!

My e-book on the themes of Walt Disney’s greatest films is now up and available for purchase on Amazon! 

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Introduction:

G.K. Chesterton wrote that, “There is no way of dealing properly with the ultimate greatness of Dickens, except by offering sacrifice to him as a god; and this is opposed to the etiquette of our time.” Something similar could be said of Walt Disney. In less than sixty-five years of life, he elevated animation to an art form, built what became one of the most powerful media companies on Earth essentially from scratch, revolutionized the American theme park, and all while producing some of the finest and most beloved films of all time.

            Most filmmakers would count themselves fortunate to produce a single undisputed masterpiece. Walt Disney made at least three in the form of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, and Mary Poppins. That isn’t even counting the long line of excellent films he produced such as Pinocchio, Bambi, and Old Yeller, nor the even larger number of high-quality films like Cinderella, Treasure Island, and Swiss Family Robinson.

            These films are not just well made pieces of entertainment; they are rich stories that continue to speak to audiences decades after their debut. Mr. Disney drew on some of the finest storytellers who ever lived, including Johann Goethe, Charles Perrault, Jules Verne, and Robert Louis Stevenson in search of timeless tales that could speak to people at their core. He aimed, not to appeal to children, but to the ‘continuous thread of being that remains when a child becomes an adult.’

            In a time when more and more people, especially artists, were chasing after new ‘revolutionary’ ideas, Mr. Disney struck his roots down deep into the ancient and eternal truths that had formed Western civilization, placing his cutting-edge filmmaking techniques at the service of timeless ideas. He frequently included religious themes, offering them up with a careless, matter-of-fact sincerity that sometimes shocks the modern viewer.

            These timeless themes and eternal truths are the subject of this book. Our goal is neither to provide a historical study of Mr. Disney’s career nor critical reviews of his film (though both historical information and critical opinion will appear in order to provide context). Rather, this book is an attempt to examine twelve of Walt Disney’s best and most important films as examples of wisdom literature: to ask what they have to say and how they say it.

            The interpretations in these essays are all my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of either the Walt Disney Corporation or Mr. Disney himself, though from what I have read and understood of the man, I don’t think there is anything herein that he would have objected to (apart from my calling him by the respectful ‘Mr. Disney’ throughout: he always preferred the casual ‘Walt’). That said, I have tried to avoid assuming anything not actually present in the films themselves. That is, I have tried not to ‘force’ the films to present a certain theme, but merely to listen to what they have to say. I have, of course, taken historical and cultural knowledge – i.e. the allusion to Ephesians 6 in Sleeping Beauty – into account, but only when it appears to me justified by what is occurring on screen. Any allusions to literary or scholarly works not expressly referenced in the films are meant as illustrative examples, not necessarily as a reading of the filmmakers’ intentions. On that subject, I have also done my best to avoid speculating as to the filmmakers’ motivations. Wherever I have, I present it merely as a possibility rather than an established fact.

            As for the themes and ideas herein presented, I believe they are present for any to see who cares to view these films with a discerning eye. If any are novel in the sense of not being inherent in what passes on screen, they are so unwillingly.           

            My intention is not necessarily to say anything original or groundbreaking, but merely to showcase the rich thematic depths that form the core of these classic films. In so doing, I hope to leave the reader with a greater appreciation for both the films themselves and for their illustrious creator, whose work has meant so much to so many.

Read the whole thing!

Catholic Match Post: Love Honor More

My latest post is up on Catholic Match:

Of course, honor isn’t only expressed in momentous, world-shaking events like the American Revolution. In fact, it’s mostly expressed in small, day-to-day affairs in which we are offered the chance to do either what is right or what is easy.

There’s an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show that illustrates this well (if you haven’t seen the show, you should check it out; it’s a ton of fun, and has more raw talent packed into a relatively small cast than half the shows of today have all put together). The episode sees Rob (Van Dyke), a TV writer, discovering that he has to take a business trip to review a new performer his show might want to hire. Only the trouble is, the trip would mean missing his son’s school play. Rob doesn’t want to miss the play, but feels that his responsibility to his job has to take precedence in this case, especially since getting out of the trip would mean lying to his boss. His wife, Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) thinks he ought to put his son’s play first, and pressures him into lying his way out of the trip.

However, after sleeping on it (and having a hilarious nightmare) Rob decides that he needs to be the one to make this decision and goes on the trip. Laura’s angry at first, and Rob spends the trip feeling guilty, but when he gets home she admits that she’d much rather he do what he thinks is right than cater to her wishes every time. The fact that he is willing to honor his responsibilities, even when it is difficult, is precisely what makes him a good husband and father.

Such a small domestic argument probably isn’t what comes to mind when you think of the word ‘honor,’ but for most of us, this is how the matter will manifest itself; not in a decision whether to run home or fight for the freedom of your nation, but in the simple question of which of two competing responsibilities in daily life you will give precedence to.

The Federalist Spider-Man

My latest article is up at The Federalist

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The show is also creative in how it handles the villains. Rather than an increasingly ridiculous series of accidents and coincidences, we have one accidental event (Electro), which directly leads to another (the electricity discharged during Electro’s rampage gives Doctor Connors’s Lizard formula an unexpected boost, sending it into overdrive), which then makes Tombstone realize that if Spider-Man is busy fighting supervillains, he’ll be too preoccupied to go after his crime empire.

So he hires Osborne to start making more, which gives Osborne funding and test subjects for his more “questionable” experiments. The show therefore quickly brings a large portion of Spidey’s excellent rogues’ gallery into play while continuing to tell a seamlessly coherent story, developing the already established characters, and without placing undue stress on the audience’s credulity.

 

That brings me to another aspect of the writing: it flows marvelously well from one episode to another. Actions and events have real consequences that may not come into play for several episodes down the line, meaning that everything the characters do has real weight. A thoughtless decision on Peter’s part in an early episode starts a chain reaction of events that continues to affect the story until the very end. When characters have to make hard choices on this show, we’re completely invested because we know it could affect the whole course of the story.

Read the rest here.