Fangirl Saves the World

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Archive for August 2010

fiction as religious text, part II

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Here’s the part I left out yesterday.
If we buy my theory, then soulbonding is no weirder than praying.
Yup, I said it.
I’ll stop here to say that, from what I understand, there are a lot of ways to soulbond and a lot of ways to pray. That being said, we can’t compare being married to Snape on the astral plane to closing your eyes and reciting a quick Lord’s Prayer before you hop into bed; apples to apples, please.
So how is muses/characters telling writers how the story goes any different than divine inspiration? You’re interacting with some kind of unseen entity who tells you things. As your friendly neighborhood godless heathen, this seems like a fair comparison to me because taken out of context* the Bible is a book. (You are free to shoot me for heresy at any point in this discussion.) I don’t have the time, energy or expertise to get into a debate about the historical/scientific accuracy of the Bible, but lets go with the easy argument: there is no objective evidence for the existence of anything divine.
So, talking to Mary (or whoever) in prayer is not, in my opinion, any more or less “crazy” than talking to, e.g., Gandalf; believing you’re a reincarnated human soul is no different than believing you’re a reincarnated elf, a reincarnated Na’vi or even a reincarnation of a specific character from a book or an anime or something. (Okay, it’s true that humans could have existed on this earth and elves or Na’vi would have to have been on other planets or planes of existence, but isn’t heaven itself supposed to be in another dimension/realm/thing?)
I have this horrible feeling like I’m going to be dragged out into the street and shot. Before you do that, let me say that I’m not defending or attacking either side here, just drawing attention to the parallels that I see between them


*okay, I will give you that thousands of years of history is a hell of a lot of context

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Written by Fangirl

August 16, 2010 at 10:30 pm

fiction as religious text, part I

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This is a little different than what I usually post about, but fandom is also important to me and is something I kept meaning to write about and never getting around to. Well, here you are.

standard disclaimer: whether this or that holy text is true is not relevant to the topic of this post; frankly, I don’t know and that doesn’t really bother me. I know this can be a sensitive topic but please just try to roll with the idea.

For a long time, I’ve had this theory that modern day fiction and fandom communities serve basically the same emotional need as traditional organized religion.* I’ve never, as far as I remember, committed this idea to paper (or w/e), but I have given it considerable thought.
There are two essential components to this theory, which I’m going to divide into “narrative” and “community.”
First, narrative. This is the texts themselves. The stories that usually serve this purpose are most likely epic tales of world saving adventure and true deep love and completely fucking awesome badassery: think Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or Final Fantasy – think big. (I’m not sure if smaller, more personal slice-of-life style stories could fill the same role. I’m inclined to think not, but I’d consider the possibility.)
The stories themselves are exciting and fun, and offer an escape from daily life. Even those of you who think I am full of shit can probably agree with me on this point. They allow us access to better worlds, whether it’s because people can use magic or alchemy or the landscape is just prettier or there’s no *isms, we can go to Hogwarts or Middle-earth and it’s way better than our boring, normal and also sometimes difficult lives. Which is – again, harping on the psychological not spiritual thing – kinda like the idea of heaven.
The characters are also a crucial part of this theory. No, I will never be Olivier Armstrong, nor will I ever reach her levels of epic badasery in my real life. In fact, my real life is pretty boring sometimes (and certainly never as interesting as hers) and I’m actually a very shy, anxious person – but when I’m nervous, I can think of her and get some second hand badassery even if all I’m doing is giving a speech in class or calling someone out for being a douchebag.
I think the reason the story needs to be so larger than life in this scenario is so that the characters have room to be completely fucking ridiculously amazing without breaking our suspension of disbelief. It’s reassuring and validating to see stories about people like ourselves doing things like we do in a life we can recognized and identify with as similar to our own, but I don’t think those stories can inspire the same kind of devotion that epics get. (This is skipping ahead a little, but most of the stories I can think of with fucking ginormous fandoms are save the world stories.)
I think these characters fill basically the same emotional need as the saints or god/ess/es. Most of us will never be saints because most of us probably work pretty hard to avoid being thrown to the lions or whatever, but we can still admire their bravery and conviction and try to emulate them in our own mundane lives. Obviously, taking a big test is not the same as being fed to giant carnivores for other people’s entertainment, but these stories are larger than (real) life, and in our small lives, our trials are difficult and frightening for us as we live through them – and when we’re upset or afraid, we can recall those larger than life heros and say “you know what, self? Eowyn killed the goddamn Witch King you can take a stupid test” or “c’mon, Hermione would stand up for what’s right and tell that person they’re being a complete asshole about this” or whatever.
The second component is the fandom, which I think is roughly equivalent to the church community.
Think about it. Fandom is a place where people get together to express their mutual adoration of a given text. The characters and stories have special meaning in the lives of fans. (I’m not saying all fans or even most fans ascribe this level of meaning to their fandoms, but if you like a text enough to be a member of it’s fandom, you clearly enjoy it more than the average reader/viewer/consumer.) Like a religious community, there will probably be intense scrutiny of the text and it’s possible meanings and, in more-or-less the same way religious groups splinter and fight over dogma, fandom breaks off into little groups and argues about whose ‘ship is more canon, whether or not balrogs have wings and how far it is possible to apparate; goddamnit, there’s even the “my version is better” no “my version is better”-type wank in Fullmetal Alchemist fandom as there is in the various editions of the Bible and which texts are/are not apocryphal. (Yes, I just said that; same kind, vastly different degree.)
The most important thing about the community is the community. Here is a place where people speak a common language, if you will; they are moved by the same text you are moved by, they care about the same thing you care about – and they care more than most people. There are plenty of Christian-identifying people who don’t attend church, and then there are those who are there every Sunday, rain or shine. Likewise, lots of people read Harry Potter but only a fraction of those people showed up for the midnight release parties. Among those devoted enough to put on a wizard robe and hat (/shot) there is a sense of belonging that, I imagine, is roughly similar to being a member of a devout religious group.
(This is all guesswork, however, because I have never been a member of an organized religion that I did not invent for the hell of it.) Fans go on pilgrimages to places associated with their texts, whether with the story itself (e.g., the bench Will & Lyra meet on every summer) or it’s creators (e.g., the grave where Tolkien and his wife are buried); basically, they go to places made special (read: holy, in a religious context) by the connection.
If you think I’m full of shit, I don’t blame you, but I would like to point out that this person did actual research and reached roughly the same conclusions about the Twilight fandom as I have drawn here to fandoms in general in her article, The Religion of Twilight. In fact, there is an entire book about it.
I actually have moar thoughts on this topic, but they will have to wait for a separate post.

Written by Fangirl

August 15, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Posted in fandom is funny

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fundamentalist Biblical literalism and you: part 2 of ??

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A quick and friendly disclaimer to start this post before I step on any toes: I’m not saying you should live your life based on the Bible, nor am I saying you should not. What I am saying is that if you claim to live, word for word, by what the Bible says, you are expected to do exactly that. If you, like me, believe that this is a book, perhaps divinely inspired but ultimately written (and then translated) by fallible human beings two thousand years ago, and that therefore some of this stuff just isn’t relevant any more now that we know better and just think that what matters is that Jesus wanted us to love our neighbors, that’s totally cool. It’s the hypocrisy of cherry picking what matters while simultaneously insisting that the cultural context it was written in doesn’t matter and God wants us to obey every single rule laid down therein that gets me.

Without further ado: I found s’more handy Bible knowledge!
This won’t be news to any of you who actually know jack shit about the Bible, but it was new to me.
First off: I Corinthians 11:5-6, which says “But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.” So at the very least, women should cover their heads in prayer (and, by extension, in church). I don’t wanna hear jack shit about literal Biblical living* from any woman who doesn’t do that, because otherwise she is a hypocrite and/or a liar. This passage is full of heinously sexist bullshit, much of which I am sure they use to support their patriarchal society, but if you’re gonna say that you can’t pick and choose, you can’t pick and fucking choose.
I’ve tried this before by quoting Leviticus 19:19, but was told that, because Jesus made a new covenant with God, many of those rules don’t apply any more (e.g., Christians don’t have to keep kosher). This argument pissed me off for two reasons: one, as far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong), Jesus never says anything about eating bacon (&c.) outside The Gospel According to Biff†. Funny, though, how they have no problem keeping Leviticus 18:22. See what I mean about hypocrites and liars?
Also, continuing the anti-family theme in Corinthians that I talked about earlierLuke 14:26, wherein Jesus basically says that if you have ties to your family, you’re not worthy of him. Ironic, considering the Biblical literalist/fundamentalist obsession with marriage and babies, ’cause these two passages (both New Testament, mind you, and therefore – according to what I’ve been told about why Christians don’t have to keep kosher – more relevant/important than their favorite passages about replenishing the earth (Genesis 1:28)) make it pretty clear that Christ likes unattached singles.
I did find two verses – and here I am, picking out what I think is still relevant, but I never claimed to do otherwise – that I liked: Joel 2:28-29: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” and Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” So fucking play nice with each other, kiddies, or Our Father may have to come down here and kick some unrighteous ass: yours.


*I’m not referring here to “What Would Jesus Do?” but to the Quiverfull and related movements that interpret the Bible literally (or so claim to) and live (or say they live) by what the Bible says, word for word; by all means, protect adulterers from being stoned to death and whatnot – be nice to widows and orphans, pet kittens, whatever!
†I went there.

Written by Fangirl

August 13, 2010 at 2:41 am

but I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

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I somehow have ended up arguing Scripture with a group of… well, I’m not sure. They call themselves “Christian,” and I’m not going to say that they’re not, but that’s an awfully broad label and doesn’t tell y’all much about what I’m talking about. They’re not exactly Quiverfull, but they’re close.
Anyway, I got into a debate about 1 Corinthians 7 and whether or not marriage is always supposed to be part of God’s plan.
(Some handy background for people who don’t know me well: I’m nonreligious, and I actually care whether or not the Bible says I should or should not do something. I’m here for the debate, because I enjoy debating.)
Now, that passage sounds to me – and to another woman on the site who actually seems to care – like Paul is saying basically that ideally, everyone would be an unmarried (and, hence, celibate) like him and marriage is just a compromise for those who aren’t cut out for life as an ascetic.
Basically, marriage is for those too weak willed to fight temptation.
(I’m not saying I believe this, I’m just saying this is what it sounds, to me, like what this passage is saying.)
One woman said that the times were different then, Christians were persecuted and in grave danger, and it would be better for a Christian to burn than to watch, helpless, as their spouse burned. However – this is where I jumped into the argument – why can’t we apply that rule to other Scriptural mandates? I doubt she’d be as willing to say that the Bible was written in a different cultural context than the world we live in today, therefore the things the Bible says about women/homosexuality/&c. no longer apply, either.
Funny how the Bible needs to be taken completely literally in some contexts (this site is big on the “[b]e fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” bit being a continued mandate, despite the Earth being more’n replenished already) but not in others (they don’t seem to support the “I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I” thing that Paul here is on about.)
If someone who actually knows the Bible and teachings thereof would like to educate me, I would like to be educated. I’m working with the passages themselves and some reading comprehension, but no religious teaching. (Yours truly is your friendly neighborhood godless heathen.)

Written by Fangirl

August 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm