I just saw Wings of Desire…

Turns out “City of Angels” (Nicholas Cage, Meg Ryan) was based on a German film from 1987.  And like usual with an Americanization, it focused on plot and romance and changed the ending….The original film is “Der Himmel über Berlin.”  It means Heaven over Berlin, but for some reason was translated as “Wings of Desire.”  And there’s much more in it than a love story (or an angel discovering sex).

There’s Peter Falk (a former angel himself) wandering the streets talking to the angels, while working on a film about Nazis, and Berliners say, “Isn’t that Columbo?”

There’s Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds performing in the underground clubs as punks and Goths bop their heads.

There’s an old man remembering Berlin before the Allied bombers came through, and the aftermath.  We get images from old newsreels of dead children and Berliners digging through the rubble.  We see the Wall with its graffiti art, and the stark cleanness of the other side, with a couple of soldiers instead of life.

Berlin is full of diversity: Muslims, people of color, along with the native Germans.

Most of the movie is in black and white, until our angel starts getting a taste of human sensation.

The movie is just as much about the thoughts and lives of all these other people, and the angels listening to them, while children can see them–as it is about an angel falling in love with a human.  I even caught a few references to Genesis and the Book of Enoch when the woman speaks to the angel at the very end.

The woman is a French trapeze performer in a failing circus, rather than a surgeon.  Their names are different.

He’s not even a handsome angel, looks middle-aged and has lines in his face, yet this beautiful young woman (the actors are 20 years apart) falls in love with him.  Apparently she sees beyond the surface and connects to his spirit.

Usually Americans like their happy endings, but this time it was switched: The German one has a happy ending, while the American one is sad.

Roger Ebert compared the two movies here.  He wrote, “To compare the two films is really beside the point, since “Wings of Desire” exists on its own level as a visionary and original film, and “City of Angels” exists squarely in the pop mainstream.”

This also reminds me of recently watching “The Return of Martin Guerre” vs. “Sommersby,” yet another example of Americanizations changing everything and suffering missteps where the original was a masterpiece, losing the depth of the original.  This is why I prefer foreign originals and not American remakes.

One Exvangelical’s perspective: Ditching offensive entertainment

The other day, the shoutbox of my favorite streaming music station, Sanctuary Radio, held a discussion on whether to play music by certain Goth/Industrial bands who have some strike against them: singer who rapes women, Nazi sympathizers, terrible anti-woman lyrics, etc. etc. etc.  Nobody wants to support bad people, but–should we or should we not play their music?

I come at this from the perspective of a childhood in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian subculture.  From my earliest days, I heard about backmasking and that rock music was of the Devil (or “jungle music”).  I thought the devilishness was in the secular bands backmasking Satanic messages and singing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, so I turned to Christian rock.  My parents didn’t restrict us too much with music, but my denomination’s teen magazine posted letters from youth pastors who said ALL rock music is of the Devil.  That even included the saccharine, poppy tunes of Amy Grant.

It was also sinful just to go into a movie theater, no matter what movie was playing.  I never went to prom because I didn’t want to go to Hell for dancing.

Then I started hearing from The 700 Club how the Devil was in everything: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (because of the Force), Halloween, stories about witches, etc. etc.  I eventually got away from that, but then Harry Potter came along and Evangelicals went crazy.

Then there were the books your parents didn’t want you to read in high school English because of sexual or other verboten themes.  And you’d read the lists of books which were banned the most often from schools/libraries by conservatives who thought Oh my gosh the kids can’t read that!

And of course, there have always been groups more extreme than mine, saying girls can’t wear pants or cut their hair, you can’t wear shorts, some even taking things so far that you can’t even have music at all, or use electricity.

Nowadays it’s coming from the other direction: liberals saying you can’t watch that, you can’t read that, you can’t listen to that, because now it’s violating other sensibilities: subject matter contains rape, the main character is played by a rapist, it’s cultural appropriation, the movie or its director is racist/sexist/ableist/etc. etc. etc.

I learn a bit about the lives of the classic authors and artists and discover that Picasso was a narcissist who treated his women like crap while also making them addicted to him; that Dostoevsky was a terrible human being; that Charles frickin’ Dickens abandoned his loving wife for a skinny young thing because she got fat after bearing him 10 kids.

I hear countless stories of rock music greats committing sexual assault or statutory rape.

I feel guilty repeating some beloved old line from a Cosby routine, or watching a Woody Allen movie.

Warring shippers for the show Timeless argue that the other side is promoting misogyny: “How can you put Wyatt and Lucy together when he was jealous all season?”  “How dare you put Flynn and Lucy together in this age of metoo?”

I already knew there were guys behaving badly in movies like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but it had been so long since I saw those movies that I forgot the stuff that Molly Ringwald pointed out.  And yeah, now I can see the problems, the echoes of rape culture, the idea that boys do whatever they want while girls have to stop them–But do we ditch the movies now?

I could see the problem with Mister Mom when I saw it about ten or so years ago: Not just assuming that men can’t parent, but the shades of 50s sitcoms when Mom goes to work, and the house is in chaos until she comes back home.  But do we never watch it again?

Or The Little Rascals–Yeah, it can get racist at times, but it was the 1930s and here were kids of various races playing together like equals.  We grew up with Spanky and Porky and Buckwheat etc.; is it wrong for our kids to enjoy it?

Do we reject Kermit falling for Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show incarnations because she’s a domestic abuser?

And now I hear that Rudolph and some Christmas song I never heard of, are in the crosshairs.  I can’t speak on a song I don’t know, but the whole point of Rudolph is that a bullied reindeer gets honored.  Are we not supposed to depict bullying onscreen now?  Do we stop showing anything bad that ever happens to people and pretend everything’s always great?

It just gets to the point–Where does it end?  Am I to toss out all music, all books, all art, all movies, all TV shows?  Because is there anything out there not touched by, or depicting, some horrible person who did some horrible thing?

It starts to remind me way too much of growing up Fundamentalist and being told to separate myself from worldly things.

From the article Old favorites, outdated attitudes: Can entertainment expire? by Ted Anthony of the Associated Press:

They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.

…What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?

…The solutions suggest a general direction: Don’t simply ban or eliminate or delete. Talk about stuff — whether formally, when it’s presented to the public, or informally at home. And involving more voices in the production of today’s popular culture — and the selection, curation and characterization of yesterday’s — can make sense of this more than dismissing the issue as overreaction or scrubbing the leavings of less-enlightened eras.

Let Molly Ringwald have the last word: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”


Weighing in on the Sister Wives Scandal

I’ve written here before about Sister Wives, so I suppose I might as well again, now that a little corner of reality-TV-fandom has exploded with the story of one of the Sister Wives, Meri, being catfished by a woman who pretended to be a man.  She says that a woman called JO pretended online to be a man named S, and that she had an emotional affair with him.

Well, originally she said that.  Now she says she was coerced into leaving loving messages for him.  Um….

Well, S says he’s not J at all, but a man named S, and runs a blog meant to prove that Meri is lying about him.

It’s not like this is some huge earth-shattering crisis, but if Meri is indeed lying about him, then she’s set herself up for a lawsuit, and the show Sister Wives could soon go off the air.  Fans don’t like being lied to.

I’ve kept an open mind about this, because I don’t want to be fooled by Sister Wives or by someone on the Net.  But S’s evidence keeps getting more and more convincing.

Meanwhile, there is a whole group of trolls who, from what I understand, not only have been harassing S and J, but have also been harassing the Sister Wives family on social media.

A while back, I swore off the official Facebook fan page for this and My Five Wives, because a bunch of people kept posting horrible comments about the family members, even the kids, and ripping into anyone who disagreed.  Now, from what I understand, these trolls have turned on S, and anyone who thinks he might be real.  They have posted websites about him and J as well.  I came across them a couple of times, and they looked like your typical hate site, not credible at all.

And now I’m told that even Meri is hanging out with the same trolls who diss her family.

Yet if you try to google this case, you get nothing from a credible news source.  All you get are hate sites and gossip sites.

I have been reading S’s website for a while, to find out who’s telling the truth.  Occasionally I comment, nothing mean or nasty.  I just don’t post things that get me banned, and prefer to be nice and kind to everyone.  So it shocked me when, in a really weird twist, S’s friend L, who has been helping him with his website, mistook me for some woman who had been causing trouble, and banned me after I submitted a comment.

(Those who accuse S of being JO, say that L is also JO.  But they write much differently, and then this happened, making me pretty sure S and L are two different people.)

S unbanned me when he discovered the mistake, but the comment is now lost to the ether.

However, I really wanted the trolls to see my comment, darn it.  😛  Maybe they’ll see it if I try to reconstruct it almost 24 hours later here on my own blog, so here goes.  I’ll also add some other things I want to say but didn’t think of at the time:

I subscribe to blog posts whenever I comment on them.  On one of S’s posts, somebody wrote about all these personal things he should make available for the public, to verify his identity.  I don’t want to go into the whole thing, which was quite long, but she, along with others in past comments, chided S for not providing various personal details on the Internet.

So I wrote that most private, non-celebrity people probably don’t want all that stuff easily found through Google.  S’s only claim to “celebrity” is having had an affair of some kind (he says physical, she says emotional) with a reality TV star.

As for S’s half-picture, which many say is not his actual image, I don’t use my real name or picture on the Net, either.  They’re on Facebook, but only to be found by people who already know my real name.  Instead, I use a Net handle and a drawing I myself made years ago of a literary character, so at least I own the copyright.  😉  I have also seen an abuse blogger (Prozacblogger) use a half-image of his face to keep his abusive father from recognizing him.

The behavior of the trolls, and learning about a woman named C–who has (allegedly!) been stalking him and (allegedly!) spreading catfish stories about S for five years, then told the tabloids that he catfished Meri, despite him (allegedly!) not knowing C at all–these things convinced me.

Oh, yes, and the fact that Twitter is suspending the accounts of the trolls.  I have checked a few, and yes, they are suspended.  How could he get them to suspend the accounts without a police report?  He says he has one on C, and that they’re working with him because of that.

For more information, see here, here and here.  Don’t miss the comments, which go into more detail about what we readers have found when looking through the troll tweets–thousands of them, one said.

I hope the trolls will discover that their character has spoken volumes against their credibility.  When you behave like a troll–

harassing people,

harassing anyone who speaks to those people,

spreading lies about them (a post about K trying to pull in celebrities when all she did was ask Rosie O’Donnell if her staff contacted her, because a troll called K claiming to be from Rosie),

making sexual comments about their spouses (this happened with Sister Wife Robyn’s friend K, who has also been harassed by the trolls),

constantly making new Twitter accounts so you can keep harassing even after your accounts are suspended or blocked–

you are the one who looks like an ass, NOT the person you targeted.

We readers, along with S, are amazed and appalled at the mass volumes of harassing tweets, and the numbers of accounts set up by this small group of trolls.  And that when you look at their Twitter profiles, they are grown women with children!

They don’t behave like true victims.  They act like teen boys trolling the Net for lulz, or mean girls targeting some poor unfortunate.  This speaks volumes to me after studying narcissism, bullying and abuse.

One of the trolls calls herself “J” (and is NOT JO, the one accused of catfishing), has a profile pic of a catfish, and has a punctuation-challenged blurb of “Im a stinky catfish.”  She tweeted that S lies on his hit counter.  She says he has 5 readers, not thousands.  Well, I’m a real reader, and I don’t know how you can fake those hit counters.  🙂

That’s another thing: I googled a little and found in the comment section of some gossip site that the trolls were creeped out by S’s ban message.  They were creeped out by him “tracking” them, and having a ban message which gave their IP address.

Um, that’s called stat tracking, and nearly EVERY web/blog/forum owner does some form of it.  I track my stats with several different trackers, each of which gives different information.  I know IP addresses, cities, even computer information.

And you can be sure that pretty much everyplace you go on the web, the owner of the website knows these things.  It does not tell the owner your name or physical address, unless you give that information voluntarily through making a profile or posting a comment.

This is how forum owners are able to ban trolls, spammers and other troublemakers.  This is how website owners can block hackers who try to make their websites into part of a botnet or install viruses.

This is how website owners figure out which pages are most popular, who’s real and not a bot, where visitors come from, percentage of visitors who are leaving without buying anything, etc.  It also tells website owners how many people are viewing their sites using cellphones or tablets instead of PCs, so they can adapt the website to be more user-friendly.

S’s ban message is automatically generated by a WordPress plugin called WP-Ban, which I also have on my blog.  The generic ban message includes your IP address.  There is nothing “creepy” about this; it’s just the way the plugin works.

So no, S’s not being a creepy catfisher by tracking his stats or banning your IP address.  He’s just being a typical website owner.

S warned his readers not to speak to him on Twitter because the trolls come after anyone who does.  But I don’t have a Twitter, and comments here on my blog are turned off, so “nyah” to the trolls!  😀

I also feel sorry for S, dragged into all of this, harassed by trolls, forced to prove his own existence, while TV shows–both Sister Wives and a catfishing special also aired this week by the channel TLC–keep saying he’s not real.

This is the kind of crap that cyberbullies can pull off.  This is why we need to fight back against it, before somebody else gets accused of not even being real.  😛

PS: I have my proof that S is real, not a catfish.  So the trolls can blow it out their ears.

UPDATE 2020: I have proof that Sam is who he says he is, so the trolls can pound rocks.  He’s opened up more online publicly and to me.  I will NOT post private proofs here because it’s his business only to post these things and I will not violate his trust.  But publicly he now has a podcast with his girlfriend (who I’ve verified is a real person–and that she has visited him).


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