Category Archives: TV/movie

Buffy the Vampire Slayer S1 E12 “Prophecy Girl” and Paul’s Gospel in Romans (Part Two)

So The Master has ascended and Buffy is dead.

But that’s not how the story ends. Two friends were following Buffy hoping to help her in some way. They arrive in the underground lair seconds after the Master has blasted his way to the surface. There lies Buffy face down in a pool of water.

It turns out that The Master gained great strength from Buffy’s blood and had not drained her of a life threatening amount. Rather, Buffy drowned when she fell into the water. One of Buffy’s friends resuscitates her. She suddenly opens her eyes, inhales, and coughs up water.

While the rationale is excessively lame, I have to point out that, of the two friends, it is not the superpowered one who is able to revive her. Rather, the normal humble one gives life. This is not actually consistent with the themes I’m pointing to in this post, but it does have it’s own Gospel dynamic. It is emphasized in the climax of season 6 when Buffy’s powers are useless but a normal carpenter saves the world by being willing to die.

In any case: strangely, she does not feel weakened. She feels stronger.  The initial sequence of Buffy being knocked down and getting back up seems to have been emblematic of her dual with The Master. Having new life she returns to the surface to confront The Master. She finds him on a rooftop. While in the underground cavern he had used the shadows to hide and ambush Buffy, here there was no way to play such tricks. They can only fight and Buffy wins, throwing the vampire down to the ground where a convenient sharp wooden branch penetrates his heart.

So there are two dynamics here. One is obvious to my Christian and many non-Christian readers: Buffy dies and rises and is thus able to defeat evil.

But the other dynamic is what I want to focus on: Buffy, by her dying, liberates and empowers the evil so that it can finally be dealt with once and for all. That was the despair-inducing truth that the Master boasted in before he bit her: that it was precisely Buffy’s heroic action that would provide him with the power he needed to rise and open the Hellmouth.

In order for God to “condemn sin in the flesh” of Jesus on the cross, he had to intensify sin. The evil needed to reach its full power and offense. This, it turns out is what the whole era of the Law was for. And herein lies the great irony and joke and scandal that God has made.

Like Buffy, Israel had a mission, to bring light to the world and combat the darkness through the Law that God gave:

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (from Exodus 19).

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (from Deuteronomy 4)

So Israel obeys God and spreads his true worship. It is simple. Like a mission to use one’s supernatural strength to fulfill one’s calling to slay vampires.

But Israel kept failing. They would fall into idolatry and sin and have to be restored. The Mosaic system eventually got to the lowest point and God ripped the Ark of the Covenant out of the Tabernacle. But they he mercifully gave Israel a new sanctuary (Temple) and a new government (kings). Then that system had to be judged and God later gave Israel a new and better covenant with a new Temple and a new environment (empire) in which to be light to the nations.

And when Jesus comes he finds an Israel that is worse than ever. It is so bad that, unlike anything we find in Israel of the Old Testament, demons are haunting the populace, and even acting as ghouls in graveyards. The hellmouth is vomiting out legions of the undead into Israel and Jesus fights and conquers them.

So one would expect that Jesus to bring repentance and righteousness to Israel. You would think that he would cause Israel to turn from their path and return to God.

One would be wrong.

Jesus’ calling was actually to intensify Israel’s sin–to set up Israel in their final act of apostasy. He brought about the Final Judgment when the sky went black and the earth shook and quaked.

Like Buffy, Jesus found this calling hard to fulfill. He sweat blood as he begged God for a plan B. While he couldn’t fall into real sin or disbelief about his mission, his disciples could and did, telling him he had to be wrong about his mission to be rejected and die.

But this rejection set up the possibility that God would finally and truly deal with sin. The occasion of Jesus’ crucifixion became also the means of sin’s judgment. From Romans 8:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

And all along, Israel’s disobedience to the Law, and the climactic act of rejecting Jesus, was the means God used to accomplish this end.

Romans 5:

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s [Adam's] sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.

Romans 11:

through their [Israel's] trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles… their trespass means riches for the world… their failure means riches for the Gentiles

For if their rejection [when they rejected Jesus] means the reconciliation of the world [which the cross of Christ brought about], what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? [i.e. Israel has now fulfilled their role and should be encourage to join the side of the vampire slayers now]

For just as you were at one time disobedient to God [as pagans] but now have received mercy because of their disobedience [historically to the Law and climactically in the rejection of Jesus], so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy [hear and see the Gentile conversions and be convicted and repent]. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

In point of fact, Paul’s message that it was Israel’s sin, rather than Israel’s obedience, that led (with the obedience of Christ) to the salvation of the world, produced mocking unbelief. Thus Romans 3:

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God [i.e. to bring them to the nations]. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God [will God allow Israel's unfaithfulness to foil his promises to bring salvation to the nations]? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
and prevail when you are judged.”

But if our [i.e. Israel's] unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God [which is proved by his provision of propitiation, 3.25], what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

Paul’s message was that God had arranged evil that good would come. He had consigned all to disobedience in order to have mercy on all. He had only defeated the beast by making it more beastly so that it could be finally destroyed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer S1 E12 “Prophecy Girl” and Paul’s Gospel in Romans (Part One)

Pretty early on in Prophecy Girl, almost at the beginning we have a long drawn out (slow motion) of a pretty simple action sequence. Buffy gets hurled to the ground from off camera, landing in obvious pain from the impact with the ground. She sits up sluggishly.

A man’s leg appears in the camera’s view. Her adversary is standing while she is, as far as you could tell from her prone position, at his mercy.

Naturally, this man is a vampire and the blood-sucking fiend smiles in anticipation:

He obviously thinks he is about to have supper. But he is wrong. This is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the chosen one. She alone is called and mystically equipped to fight back against the legions of darkness with her supernatural strength and reflexes. She rolls backward to her feet, stands up, pulls out her stake, watches the vampire’s grin fade, and then starts grinning herself before she slays him, turning the creature into dust.

Despite wearing a prominent cross Buffy’s m.o. is to destroy her enemies, either by shoving a sharp stick through their dead hearts (as she does to this hopeless undead victim) or cutting off their heads, or shoving them into sunlight (if she has the convenience of confronting one indoors during daylight) or burning them to ashes with fire (and one time tricking one into drinking holy water). Her strength and endurance and reflexes make her the mightier in most any fight with a vampire. She’s the power that monster’s fear.

Almost.

Not all vampires are equal. Sunnydale, California, where Buffy lives, is over a “hellmouth”–a portal into the dark dimensions.  An ancient and powerful vampire called “The Master” once tried to fully open the hellmouth and unleash all the demons on the world. He was stopped and ended up trapped down underground in a church that was buried during an earthquake. He now wants to find the power to escape to the surface and, in so doing, fulfill his quest to open the hellmouth.

The Master is much stronger than any other demon or monster Buffy has yet confronted. Even though he can’t leave his underground prison, he has many vampire minions who obey his orders and cause problems in Sunnydale above. Buffy knows she needs to find his lair and defeat the Master. She also knows this will be very difficult because he is so strong. Still, she is the Slayer and sooner or later, she is sure, she will be prepared to go down and battle him and defeat him with her superior strength and skill. That is her calling and her birthright. She is the slayer, the chosen one.

But, in the meantime, her “Watcher,” Giles, has discovered a prophecy that changes everything. Buffy is to confront the master on the night that he is to rise and he will kill her. The prophecy is not vague on the point. Buffy will die. (The prophecy even includes Isaiah 11.6–albeit horribly decontextualized).

Giles tries to hide what he has learned but she overhears him discussing it. She is going to confront the master and die. It is her destiny. Buffy completely freaks out and insists, “I quit.” She refuses to be the slayer anymore, birthright be damned. She emphatically grabs the cross from around her neck, glances at it once in her hand, and tosses it onto the table. She will not follow her calling if it means going to her death against the powers of evil.

But despite all the drama, Buffy changes her mind. After several peers are murdered by vampires on school grounds, as part of the stepped up campaign on behalf of The Master, Buffy realizes she can’t try to escape the devastation others are experiencing. The prophecy didn’t say that the Master survived their encounter. Perhaps they will both be destroyed. She has to try. She returns to the school library and puts the cross back around her neck. She’s reconciled to her calling.

She finds her way to The Master’s lair/prison and attempts to kill him. He is too fast and seems to have a telekinetic power that makes her strength useless. As a typical vampire he bites her on the neck. But before he does so he tells Buffy that she is the sacrificial lamb. Without the strength he will gain from her blood he would not have the power to break free and unleash hell on earth. She has empowered him.

He bites her and lets her unconscious body fall face first into a pool of water. Then he breaks the mystical barrier and ascends in power to wreak his will on the earth.

TO BE CONTINUED

I Am Legend

I have a ton to do today so this must be quick. But I have to take a moment to express what a joy it is to suddenly discover the horror author, Richard Matheson (he’s wider than that but I’m going to read all his horror first if a I can). His novel, I Am Legend was just amazing. It was the kind of thing where you realize most of the vampire fiction you read before was completely second-hand and this was the source that inspired all those wannabe imitators.

I read this novella because I had seen the movie I Am Legend and had been incredibly impressed with it.  One person told me that it wasn’t as good as the book, but I have to assume that is because he wanted the movie to be a copy of the book.  It isn’t.  It is very much indebted to the book but it is a different story.  In fact, one of the great experiences involved in reading the book second was realizing what brilliant decisions the writers had made to use different situations and actions and history to get some of the same emotional stress.

I don’t want to give either story away.  One difference is that the book is about vampires while the movie is about zombies, though the zombies have some vampire features that make more sense once you learn about the book as a source.

One of the things that the movie does, which blew my mind, is show there is more going on than what the protagonist sees, without ever bothering to explain to you what exactly is happening.  To avoid spoilers, when you see the movie and hear the protagonist say that the zombies have lost their last bit of humanity, ask yourself if what he is describing is not showing exactly the opposite.  As it turns out, this element came from the book, but it is simply used to add complexity rather than as a plot issue that must be resolved.  I think it was brilliant.

I have to admit, I didn’t like the end (as in the very last page) of the novella.  I wish Matheson had written part two (which would have been pretty easy to do, in my opinion) and made it into a complete novel.  Also the movie is very much a Christian story with a theodicy (when the camera focuses on graffiti at the beginning, pay attention) and a protagonist who had real faith (before he lost it).  The original novella is much more naturalistic and unbelieving.

They are both amazing though, and I highly recommend them both.

Destroying limits is self-destructive

This conversation reminded me of an episode of Buffy.  To be clear, the portrayal of magic on the show is problematic (along with many other things), but I find it interesting that the writers dabbled in similar principles about good and evil in magic.

In this scenario Willow is a powerful magic user who has become psychotic with rage.  (She had attempted to stop using magic because the power was addictive.)  Tara has been murdered and Willow found she could not raise her from the dead.  (Dawn had formerly tried to raise her recently dead mother but, in a “Monkey Paw” scenario, changed her mind and canceled the attempt before something horrible came from the grave.  Warren is Tara’s murderer.

BUFFY: (sighing) We need to find Willow.

XANDER: Yeah, she’s off the wagon big-time. Warren’s a dead man if she finds him.

DAWN: (bitterly) Good.

BUFFY: Dawn, don’t say that.

DAWN: Why not? (the others looking at her) I’d do it myself if I could.

BUFFY: Because you don’t really feel that way.

DAWN: Yes I do. And you should too. He killed Tara, and he nearly killed you. He needs to pay.

XANDER: Out of the mouths of babes.

BUFFY: Xander.

XANDER: I’m just saying he’s … he’s just as bad as any vampire you’ve sent to dustville.

BUFFY: Being a Slayer doesn’t give me a license to kill. Warren’s human.

DAWN: (scoffs) So?

BUFFY: So the human world has its own rules for dealing with people like him.

XANDER: Yeah, we all know how well those rules work.

BUFFY: Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. We can’t control the universe. If we were supposed to … then the magic wouldn’t change Willow the way it does. And … we’d be able to bring Tara back.

DAWN: (very quietly) And Mom.

BUFFY: There are limits to what we can do. There should be. Willow doesn’t want to believe that. And now she’s messing with forces that want to hurt her. All of us.

via Villains – Transcript Buffy Episode. (emphasis added)

This show, by the way, has multiple moral problems–especially season six in which this episode takes place.  But I thought it was worth mentioning.

Never thought I would think of comparing Doug Wilson to Angel

But Twilight is causing all sorts of weird alignment. Here’s Angel and here’s Doug Wilson, and both seem spot on.

And the strange blond girl is not Stephanie Meyer.

PS: I shouldn’t have to say this but I didn’t have in mind any comparison in the “confrontational style” that get Willow and Xander upset with Angel.  Also, go here to see Doug’s editorials on Twilight.

In The HarshER Light of Day – Buffy Episode 59 Transcript

Cut to Buffy and Willow walking through the campus late at night.

Buffy : So what I’m wondering is, does this always happen? Sleep with a guy and he goes all evil. God, I’m such a fool.

Willow : Well maybe you made a mistake. But that’s okay. Next time – what?

Buffy : Parker said it’s okay to make mistakes. It was sweet.

Willow : No it wasn’t. He was saying that so you would take a chance and sleep with him. He’s a poop head.

Buffy : You’re right. He’s manipulative and shallow. But what about you?  You just said the exact same thing!  You told me that it was okay to make a mistake.  How are you not Parker’s partner in crime?

Willow : Buffy just because we sounded the same one time…

Buffy: It wasn’t just one time.  You told me my “lusty feelings” were okay.

Willow: Are you sure?

Buffy: To be specific, you said about my feelings, quote: “they’re not wrong feelings cause you’re free, you’re both grown-ups. You are free, right?” Unquote.  That was a rhetorical question.  You were giving me exactly the same message as Parker.

Willow: Buffy, are you sure you want to pursue this? I means, our rule for life is that we live without a moral code and then console ourselves when we are victimized by our own lack of standards. It makes us authentic?

Buffy: It does?

Willow: I think so. At least that’s what Joss Whedon promised me.

Buffy: I can’t imagine him saying that at his acceptance speech for promoting female equality.

Willow: No, he usually keeps it strictly in the sub-text.

Buffy: Oh. So I guess I’d better mope for awhile and then go ahead and make the same mistake again.

Willo: I think the network would like that. They’re convinced it helps the ratings.

via In The Harsh Light of Day – Buffy Episode 59 Transcript.

Original text:

Cut to Buffy and Willow walking through the campus late at night.

Buffy : So what I’m wondering is, does this always happen? Sleep with a guy and he goes all evil. God, I’m such a fool.

Willow : Well maybe you made a mistake. But that’s okay. Next time – what?

Buffy : Parker said it’s okay to make mistakes. It was sweet.

Willow : No it wasn’t. He was saying that so you would take a chance and sleep with him. He’s a poop head.

Buffy : You’re right. He’s manipulative and shallow. And why doesn’t he want me. Am I repulsive? If there was something repulsive about me you would tell me, right?

Willow : I’m your friend. I would call you repulsive in a second.

Buffy : Maybe Parker and I could still work it out. Do you think we could still work it out?

Willow : I think you’re missing something about this whole poop head principal.

Buffy : I think I’m gonna take a walk. You go on ahead.

Willow : You sure?

Buffy : Yeah.

She heads off leaving Willow behind. She walks along alone, then we see both Anya and Harmony, all looking downtrodden walking along.

Buffy & Bella

Joss Whedon’s only lasting contribution to the myth of the good vampire seems to be hair gel.

But thus far Bella doesn’t seem to be falling for a good vampire who hates his appetites.  She seems like a mouse falling in love with the cat’s paw as it plays with her.  I’m only a few chapters in.  I assume he’ll get “better” at just the right moment so that young girls everywhere can learn that, if they persevere in vulnerability with their bad boy, he will always change and it will all be justified.

But I don’t need to say much about this, because it has already been said.

What I do want to say, is that at the beginning of the story, I was surprised at how good the writing was.  Of course, you need to understand perhaps, that I like hard-boiled detective stories.  Ever since I encountered Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and his The Dark Knight Returns, I have quested after the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett (and not famous stuff like The Maltese Falcon and The Glass Key because they are written in third person).  And even though there is plenty that is disagreeable to the short-lived Veronica Mars TV series (just as there was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I thought her voice and attitude was pitch perfect.

Bella does not begin this story seeming obviously vulnerable.  She seems damaged from a broken family but she shows ever sign of proactively dealing with the life she has.  (Getting away from her needy mother seems like a brilliant move no matter how much she misses the sun.)  That is what makes the sudden Edward fascination so sickening.  I realize that girls from broken homes can be damaged and become vulnerable to abusive predators, but they don’t typically take control of their lives the way Bella does.  I suspect a Bella consistent with her self-deprecation to Edward would not be interesting to read about outside the Psychology profession.

So why does Bella turn into another person when she runs into Edward?  I don’t really know that there is an answer to the question beside the fact that the author had to make her protagonist likable in some ways despite her part in the story.  But it would be nice if we could see an ideal female who handles the sin and misfortune in life without becoming willing, self-loathing, prey, but who doesn’t have impossible superpowers.  It will be a great day when someone portrays a young girl who is normal like Bella, but has the self-respect of a Buffy.

Angel S1, E21, “Blind Date”

In my opinion, this closely illustrates the ambition and career direction of one of our most famous presidents.

The door to Angel’s office closes, leaving him and Lindsey alone.

Lindsey:  “You probably think this is some kind of trick.”

Angel:  “Are you afraid of me, Lindsey?  -  You think maybe I might kill you?”

Lindsey:  “No.”

Angel:  “I’m smelling a whole lot of fear – big – stinky – mortal – terror.  So, no, I don’t think this is a trick – I think it’s a big joke.’

Lindsey:  “Hey, I don’t want to be here anymore than you want to see me.  But I don’t have a choice.”

Angel:  “You always have a choice.  I mean, you sold your soul for a fifth-floor office and a company car.”

Lindsey: “You think you’ve got me all figured out?  You think you know everything about me?”

Angel:  “Everything I need to know.”

Lindsey:  “What was your father?  He was a merchant, right?  Linen and silk?  Did pretty well?  Had a couple of servants until you killed them?”

Angel:  “Just the one.”

Lindsey:  “Well, our files aren’t 100 percent, – but I guess it’s fair to say that – you’ve never seen anything like real poverty.  I’m talking dirt poor – no shoes – no toilet.  Six of us kids in a room, and come flue season it was down to four.  -  I was seven when they took the house.  They just came right in and took it.  -  And my daddy is being nice, you know?  Joking with the bastards while he signs the deed.  Yeah, so we had a choice.  Either you got stepped on or you got to stepping and I swore to myself that I was not going to be the guy standing there with the stupid grin on my face – while my life got dribbled out…”

Angel:  “I’m sorry.  I nodded off.  Did you get to the part where you’re evil?”

Some things I loved about the movie Fireproof

I have two “deep” criticisms of fireproof that I want to make on this blog at some point.  So first I thought I would say how much I liked it.  Before anything else, if you haven’t read Doug’s post, you should.

My own thoughts:

First off, I thought the tie between boats and pornography was amazingly insightful (I’m not making a general association here; if you saw the movie you know what I mean and if you haven’t then nothing is spoiled for you).  And the vivid way the husband repented was great too.  While self-control is essential, finding satisfaction in what one has so that one isn’t as restless is incredibly important as well.  I was really impressed with the way the movie portrayed this.

Secondly (and more importantly, so these are not really in any order), I understand the movie was made in Albany by a church there.  Well, I have some small but reliable knowledge of what Albany was like during the sixties, and that means that the race relations portrayed exemplified in that movie, and I assume present among the actors and film crew, are more of a miracle than the marital reconciliation portrayed in the movie.  The Obama Administration (assuming for the sake of argument it even aims to go in the same direction) has nothing on the churches of Albany, Georgia.

Third, the excitement and peril was quite riveting.  Nothing surprising but it genuinely had me on the edge of my seat (I was there literally too, if you must know).

Fourth, I thought the way the group participated in saving the person in the car was an amazing rebuke to the husband’s arrogance that he could take care of himself.  But I don’t know if that was intentional or not.

Fifth (and sixth) portrayals of stupid blind husband and grudge-holding, idiot wife were both painfully perfect.

Seventh, the comedy was outstanding.  No grim moralists here.

OK, lovefest over.  Next post(s) on this topic will be scathing attack.  So at least you can be assured that I am really the one writing this stuff.