Monday, May 20, 2013

It's Past Time For Pat Robertson to Retire

When I was 8 years old, my dad and I went to a live taping of The 700 Club.  It's a Christian-based television show, most well-known for its host Pat Robertson.  I had a lot of respect for him during my childhood because of his notoriety, but as I got older I paid less and less attention to him.

To this day Robertson still tapes episodes of The 700 Club at the age of 83.  Frankly I'm surprised he's still chugging along and able to keep up with the hectic demands of such a schedule, but he somehow is able to push himself.  Over the last few years he's had his share of moments where he's shown signs of losing touch with the rest of society, like when he claimed Twilight was demonic in nature.

Before I get to my point - and you may already know where this is going ultimately - I have a few words regarding his thoughts on Twilight.  First, I think Twilight is insipidly stupid and immature in nature.  I may not be part of the target audience, but when you strip away all the supernatural elements of the series, it boils down to a childish love triangle where a teenage girl manipulates two guys into falling in love with her.  It's just really, really dumb.

Anyway, just because Twilight features vampires and werewolves does not automatically translate to it being demonic, which Robertson claimed it did.  He sounded like a man who had no knowledge of what Twilight was at all except that it involved vampires and werewolves.  His position fit completely within the stereotype of Christians being out of touch with what goes on in modern media today.

As minor as those comments were, they would be dumb enough.  But no, Pat Robertson chose to open his mouth once again to another viewer question last week.  A woman found out her husband had been having an affair and asked Robertson what she should do in terms of choosing between forgiving him and taking him back, or walking away completely.

I've known many women who have had to deal with infidelity in their past relationships, both married women and unmarried women.  It's heartbreaking regardless of whether there's a ring on the finger or not, and it's also something that I personally would have a difficult time with accepting it and forgiving my girlfriend if she ever cheated on me.  My position has always been that cheating would be an absolute deal breaker, but that's an easy thing to say and much more difficult choice to simply walk away.

The key is the underlying point that Robertson said in his response to the question: He said it's on the woman's shoulders to make the relationship so wonderful and happy, that the man would never think to cheat on her.  Exactly how is that fair to a woman in a relationship?  In such a slanted situation, the man would essentially have the right to dominate the relationship and put minimal effort in making his wife happy because he's so susceptible to outside influences.  

I'm absolutely horrified at the implications of his response.  No relationship - married or otherwise - should depend solely on the efforts of the woman to make her man happy.  That's insulting to both men and woman on far too many levels to talk about here.  Men apparently are incapable of resisting temptation in his mind, so we're reduced to a bunch of horny cavemen, leaving women to bear the responsibilities of homemaker, mother, cook, baker, cleaner, and lover.  

I also find it shockingly disturbing that Robertson's female co-host didn't jump in at any moment to point out the lunacy of his remarks.  If she thought he was nuts for making such statements, why didn't she speak up and be his counterpoint?  Her blood had to be boiling at the notion that Robertson expected her to be a human welcome mat for the man in her life.  Unless she had been brainwashed into buying into Robertson's ideas, she had to have been biting her tongue to prevent herself from jumping in the conversation.

There's also the question of why the viewer even asked Robertson in the first place.  Why not find a Christian marriage counselor close to home to advise her?  How could a one minute answer from Pat Robertson possibly address this woman's issues and needs adequately?  For that matter, why not advise her to seek out a Christian marriage counselor in her area?  Her original question was not so much about how to prevent her husband from cheating on her, but to decide on whether she should even take him back in the first place.  Robertson didn't even properly answer her question.

Many non-Christian friends of mine love to cite cases like Pat Robertson as reasons why they don't like evangelical Christians on the whole.  I don't blame them.  I don't like being associated even tangentially with the likes of Robertson, Jerry Falwell (even though he's been deceased for several years), or Ted Haggard because of the arrogant and sometimes hypocritical statements they make.  The sad reality is they have millions of followers nationwide who have watched them and read their books over the course of decades, and their followers will in many cases follow them blindly.

Of course, maybe it's the fault of the sheep who follow misguided (or worse) talking heads who offer the kind of offensive "advice" that Robertson gives.  They don't stop to think about how or why Pat Robertson (or someone similar to him) is even relevant now.  I don't doubt that Robertson has some great insight when it comes to marriage, considering he's been with his wife for nearly 60 years.  He has worked on staying in the limelight for much longer than he should have been, and he should have walked away into retirement years ago.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: Iron Man 3

I had very high hopes for Iron Man 3, considering Marvel brought in Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodnight) to write and direct the film.  I also had hoped for a more stand-alone story this time around, considering Marvel's Phase One had wrapped up with last year's The Avengers, leaving the main characters to be on their own for their next adventures before Avengers 2 arrives in 2015.

Let me also say for the record that I was completely disappointed with Iron Man 2.  I thought the story had little to no focus and the dialogue felt almost completely ad-libbed from start to finish.  The entire movie was deliberately designed to set the stage for The Avengers with introducing Black Widow and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D., leaving very little for actual Iron Man action (save the finale).

Having said all that, Iron Man 3 is quite an enigma.  There's a lot that I loved about the movie, but there's a crucial story element that really annoyed me.  Unfortunately that means spoiling a major plot twist in the movie later in this review, so be warned.

The film opens in 1999 on New Year's Eve.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is partying it up, and during the course of the evening, he meets Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, looking like Val Kilmer in The Doors).  Killian has a crazy idea that catches Stark's interest, but Tony blows him off in typical Tony fashion.

Fast forward to present day.  Tony is still dealing with the toll of The Avengers, finding himself unable to sleep at night.  His only venue to distract himself is to continue building more suits while his girlfriend Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) runs Stark Enterprises.  When the U.S. finds itself under attack from a series of terrorist bombings by a man who calls himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), Tony wants in on the action.

Tony finds himself on his own midway through the film, with no gadgets or backup to help him.  This is arguably the best stuff in the film, even superior to the action sequences (which are impressive themselves).  Tony has been shown to be incredibly resourceful and intelligent, which hasn't really been since the first Iron Man.  Here, he's got real detective work to do in finding the Mandarin and piecing together the clues he finds along the way.  There's a funny scene of him running through a Home Depot and filling his shopping carts with all sorts of random items that he eventually uses to break into the Mandarin's hideout.  He's a 21st century MacGyver.

Speaking of that break-in, that brings me to the major plot twist in the film that really annoyed me.  If you haven't already seen the film and don't want to be spoiled, skip ahead a bit to avoid what I'm about to discuss.


Eventually Tony finds out that the Mandarin isn't a real guy at all.  He's a persona, a phony character created by the real villain of the film, Killian.  Killian wanted to create the Mandarin as a face for the U.S. to hunt down as a distraction so he can further his own agenda.  There are two major flaws with this twist, one from the source comic book material and the other being from the first Iron Man film.

I'm only vaguely familiar with the comic book, but I know enough about it to know the Mandarin is Iron Man's arch nemesis, much like the Joker is to Batman.  I don't normally mind changes from source material to film, but this idea really undermines the nature of the character.  The first half of the film is stellar in how the Mandarin sets up one attack after another, and such a change undermines all the tension and build up that came before it.  I normally like having the rug pulled out under me with a great plot twist, but this one doesn't fit with the rest of the film.

Second, this twist doesn't make sense when taking into the first Iron Man into account.  When Tony was kidnapped and ordered to build a Jericho missile for a terrorist group, those men were part of the Ten Rings.  The Ten Rings were sworn followers of the Mandarin.  All the bad guys in Iron Man 3 were Killian's henchmen, so unless the Ten Rings from the first film also worked for Killian (which might actually make some sense, given Killian's rivalry with Tony), the connection doesn't work.


In spite of the plot twist failure, the first half of the film is really excellent, and there's a much stronger story being told here than Iron Man 2.  Shane Black also understands the concept of maximizing excitement from a few action sequences.  An Iron Man movie doesn't need nonstop action, only three or four big sequences to show off the suits.  There's also a good amount of comedy to break the tension of the film, which is to be expected from a Shane Black script.  Overall, I'd say this is a big step up from Iron Man 2, but not quite as good as the first Iron Man.