Musings from an Outlander Addict

You know what a cult show is, don’t you? No? Well, let me clue you in. A cult show is one that sucks you in so completely that you become obsessed with it. It’s the show that causes you rearrange your schedule just so you don’t miss any episodes even though you have a DVR. My first experience with a cult show was LOST. There have been a few since then, but none as powerful as the one I fell completely head over heals for last year….Outlander.

outlander-dvd

I blame The Recruiter. It’s her fault for watching the show in my family room when she, Peanut and Twix lived with us. It only took one time and I was hopelessly hooked. So hooked that I refused to let Entrepreneur get rid of Starz when he downsized our satellite TV package. So hooked that I talked The Recruiter into going to Starz on Demand and downloading the first two seasons for me. Last summer I binge watched Seasons One and Two while Entrepreneur watched sports.

So, if you are not familiar with the storyline, here it is in a nutshell.

Claire Randall, a former British Army nurse, is enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with husband Frank Randall after WW II. Frank is a former English military officer and has taken a position as an Oxford historian. Unexplainably, through an ancient stone ruin, Claire is transported back in time to 1743, into a world completely different from her own. Because of her medical background, she is perceived as a healer. To survive, literally, she agrees to an arranged marriage to Jamie Fraser, a strapping Scottish Highlander and becomes caught up in the Jacobite rebellion against the English. After a tumultuous beginning, a passionate relationship develops between Claire and Jamie and her feelings become torn between two vastly different men across two centuries. Outlander is adapted from the best-selling book series by Diana Gabaldon.

Now that my binge watching is complete, I’m in the middle of what is referred to as “Droughtlander” before the next season begins later this fall, I believe the show has more to offer than a complicated, layered storyline, breathtaking scenery, hauntingly beautiful intro music, and Highlander eye candy (aka: Jamie Fraser). It’s the perfect mix of passion and romance paired with war, torture and rugged testosterone. Here are my observations and life parallels:

Love takes turns being the hero.
Both Jamie and Claire take turns rescuing each other from certain death at the hands of the British…more specifically, a British officer named Jonathan Wolverton (Black Jack) Randall, who has personal vendettas against both of them. They risk their lives for each other because their love trumps the possibility of living without the other. In successful relationships, the depth of commitment operates selflessly and without regard for personal safety, physically and emotionally. The well-being of the other person is of utmost importance and each will move heaven and earth to make that happen. The respect, devotion, gentleness and passion Claire and Jamie have for each other is enviable. It’s the platinum standard in relationships…real or otherwise.

Not everyone is capable of redemption.
Speaking of Black Jack Randall, he’s one of Frank’s (Claire’s 1940s husband) distant relatives. And where Frank is a kind and loving gentleman, Jack is diametrically the polar opposite. And to make the dynamic more complicated, they look exactly alike. The author and the actor succeeds magnificently in creating visceral contempt for this character. Just when you think there is a glimmer of hope in his moral character, he chooses to act in the most heinous way imaginable…and admittedly, without remorse. While my faith teaches no one is beyond redemption, a person like Black Jack Randall could make me believe some people may be irreversibly evil. The tricky question is, who gets to judge whether that is actually the case? The person I write off as hopeless may simply be a lost soul who hasn’t yet encountered the experience needed to change. Maybe I’m to be that experience? One thing’s for sure….I would not want to encounter a Black Jack Randall and be faced with that moral dilemma.

Feminism with femininity.
Claire is a progressive women of the 1940s. She is a veteran Army nurse and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. She is opinionated and vocal. She takes that mentality with her to the 1700s, but quickly discovers this type of “strong woman” is not going to get her anywhere and could, quite possibly, get her killed. What results is a woman who becomes intellectually savvy and gives the appearance of restraint (for the most part). However docile she appears, underneath there’s a strong, cunning, resourceful woman who understands how to use her femininity (not sex) to her best advantage. Victoria’s Secret can parade those angels all they want; they’ve got nuthin’ on Claire Frasier.

Situations are not always as they seem.
Claire and Jamie would like nothing more than to see Black Jack Randall leave this earth….however, Jack is Frank’s ancestor and to eliminate him too soon could cause Frank to never be born. Enter, Mary Hawkins; a wisp of a girl who, according to Frank’s genealogy search, is supposed to become Black Jack’s wife and continue his lineage. The problem is, Mary loves Black Jack’s younger brother, Alex. Claire knows the genealogy of Frank and how Mary and Black Jack fit into it. She logically reasons Mary cannot marry Alex or Frank will never be born. So, she intervenes and talks Alex into leaving Mary. Months later, to her horror, she finds they’ve reunited, but Alex is very ill. Claire is begged to heal him, but she recognizes he suffers from tuberculosis and congenital heart failure. There is no known cure in this era. And, Mary is pregnant. Faced with his fiancé’s uncertain future with no husband’s wealth to provide for her, Alex’s dying with is for his decorated, military brother, Jonathan, to marry her. As abhorrent as this idea is to everyone, including Black Jack, Claire knows (according to genealogy and history) Jack going to die in the next day’s battle…so, it’s all good. Mary will not have to suffer at the hands of this depraved man. Claire breathes a sigh of relief knowing Frank’s future is secure.

My point? My point is sometimes situations just are not as they seem. There was a reason Mary and Alex were together….but no one knew what it was until Alex was on his deathbed. All of Claire’s efforts to discourage Alex and Mary’s relationship were misguided…and based on her assumption of what would/would not happen if she didn’t intervene. Sometimes, we jump to conclusions about situations before we know the circumstances. Sometimes our actions to steer events the way we think they should go are misguided and shouldn’t be pursued.

Things happen for a reason.
Dovetailing with the above observation is this one. The driving story behind Seasons One and Two is Claire and Jaime’s desire to change history and avoid the Jacobite rebellion. Believing Jamie will die in the Battle of Culloden, Claire’s focus is on how to alter the events leading up to that fateful battle. Jaime is on board and the two of them work towards disrupting Bonnie Prince Charles’ plans to overthrow the current king of England…. all the while appearing to be a supporter of the rebellion. But, despite their scheming and manipulative efforts, they are unsuccessful and the battle happens as planned.

As much as we’d love to go back and change some things about our past, events and experiences happened for a reason. For those of us who believe there is a plan for our lives and a path we must travel, it’s easier to accept this. Events are tied together for a reason; change one and you unravel everything because nothing exists in a vacuum.

I’m now (im)patiently waiting for the debut of Season Three to be announced. I admit, I’ve cheated a bit and gone online to read summaries of what we can expect to see based on the next book. And, I’m following Outlander sites on Twitter and Facebook.

Yep, definitely a cult show.

Playing along with those over at Life Through the Lens.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Lessons learned from Maleficent

So, I just got around to watching Disney’s Maleficent released last year. I stalled because I’m a bit conflicted in how I feel about Angelina Jolie. But, being a lover of the fantasy genre, Peanut, The Investigator, Entrepreneur and I had a movie night last week after Twix went to sleep.

Having recently seen Cinderella in the theater, I wondered how “adapted” the Sleeping Beauty storyline would be, even though I knew Aurora wasn’t going to be the main character focus. Sometimes I’m okay with adaptations of books or classic stories….sometimes not so much. I did enjoy the background story of Maleficent as a young girl/woman and was horrified when Stefan betrayed her….but was still okay with where I thought it was going. We got to the introduction of the pixies and I bristled a bit. Expecting to hear the names Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, I was disappointed to hear they were now called Thistletwit, Flittle and Knotgrass. And they were portrayed as rather half-witted pixies at that. But I overlooked it due to artistic license…and I felt they were only comic relief in an otherwise dark story.

The nuances in Maleficent are both simple and complex. And therein lie the lessons.

1. People aren’t always who you think they are. We were all brought up to view Maleficent as horrible and wicked…never knowing why she would want to curse baby Aurora just because she wasn’t invited to the christening. The movie clears that up in the first 20 minutes. Stefan, a peasant boy who, even though he shows compassion and character early on, changes as he grows into a person who aspires position and power at the cost of a unique, beautiful friendship. In previous story versions, Stefan is the noble king, caring father and loved by all. The Stefan in this story is driven by greed and power…at the expense of others. A true narcissist, his selfish actions have severe consequences. Betrayal and abandonment can twist the sanest of minds and Stefan’s betrayal turns a young Maleficent into a creature of nightmarish proportions. But, just as betrayal can trigger resentment, anger and vindictiveness, we find Maleficent’s true nature is something completely different from our assumptions. In the end, she chooses to embrace love and selflessness…which was her true nature all along. We all lose our way from time to time. True strength of character is whether we recognize when we’ve made mistakes and need to change course…and then take the actions that will accomplish that goal.

2. Everyone is dealing with some level of angst and pain. Whether we realize it or not at the time, everyone we cross paths with is battling something. The physical pain of her wings being cut off combined with the emotional pain of betrayal is something no one sees from the outside when crossing paths with Maleficent. What they see is a woman of great power whose demeanor is one of strength and not one to be taken advantage of. She is a virtual force of nature…and not in a good way. Unfortunately, when we feel pain emotional in this way, we construct walls around our hearts to avoid the possibility of being hurt again. We choose to live in a dark and depressive world much like Maleficent’s dead forest, surrounded by thorn trees that won’t let anyone enter.

3. Time heals and love can prevail if we’re open to change. I found it heartwarmingly sweet (and very predictable) that Maleficent’s feelings about Aurora changed as time passed. A sub-lesson here is that it’s never a good idea to make life-changing decisions when angry and resentful about circumstances in our life. Those decisions usually have disastrous consequences. I enjoyed watching Maleficent’s stone-cold facade melt away the more she interacts with Aurora…beginning with the actions that repeatedly ensure Aurora’s safety as a baby when the half-wit pixie guardians are supposedly in charge. In time, Maleficent deeply regrets the curse she cast in her fit of fury…only to discover that some words can never be taken back no matter how much we want to erase them. And love is the only thing strong enough to heal the deepest of wounds…but we must first be open to the possibility of changing our attitudes before healing can begin.

4. Life-changing love can come in unexpected forms. From toddlerhood, we’re spoon fed through Disney-fied fairy tales that true love is very specific….it usually is accompanied by a love-at-first-site prince who cannot live without said princess or beautiful maiden; that all stories end with prince and princess living happily ever after. With Frozen and Brave, we see this mindset changing and Maleficent continues that trend. The juxtaposition between the parental love Maleficent develops for Aurora and the lack that love Stefan has when reunited with his only daughter is striking. The best part is that Maleficent has no idea how powerful this form of love can me. Resigned to losing her “goddaughter” when Prince Phillip’s supposedly true-love kiss fails, any last bit of hatred towards her disappears and her walls are completely torn down. She is vulnerable and her heart is laid bare….once again to feel pain. But the end result this time is drastically different. This drives home that it’s only when we can completely open up our hearts and abandon all resentment and anger can we truly find life-changing love and happiness. Being focused on being bitter, angry, resentful and full of hatred only serves to destroy any happiness that may come our way. We simply are too blind to see it when we insist on living in the dark. And, as a side note, even when Aurora discovers her “godmother’s” horrible act towards her, she chooses to come to her aid when Stefan and his army has Maleficent cornered. Aurora releases Maleficent’s wings from their caged display in the castle and they, of course, are reunited with their owner. Through Aurora’s unselfish act towards the woman who both betrayed and befriended, Maleficent becomes indestructible. And Stefan is toast.

5.  Nobody is perfect. Cliché, I know. But how many times do we expect perfection from others and when they fail us, we are shaken and disappointed? The truth is, deep down inside all of us lives a wicked, vengeful Maleficent as well as a greedy, power/status hungry Stefan. Equally, each one of us are capable of great love and forgiveness if we choose to do so. We all live with regret for decisions we make and desperately hope there is a way to reverse the damage we inflict when our villainous side shows. We also are capable of rising above our circumstances like a hero, and loving unconditionally if we are brave enough to let down our guard and not worry about getting hurt. We are both villain and hero combined into one flawed package. But whatever the circumstances that tend to draw us to our darker side, they don’t need to forever define us.

We do have a choice.

 

Enemies of the People

Recently, Entrepreneur and I attended the True/False Film Festival.  We chose to see the True Life film documentary, Enemies of the People, sponsored by our church, The Crossing. It’s an independent film about Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime and the killing fields.

It’s a part of history probably not found in textbooks. It wasn’t covered much in school…everyone was too busy protesting the Vietnam war and wearing POW bracelets. What I saw in this documentary was eye-opening, horrific, disturbing and right up there with the pure evil of the Holocaust. Two million Cambodians died essentially because of two men, Pol Pot and Nuon Chea. Enemies of the People won the Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Special Jury Prize for documentaries. And justly deserved.

It’s a story of the amazing  journey of a Cambodian journalist, Thet Sambath, and his quest to find the truth behind the killing fields. That sounds innocent enough…not necessarily warranting such praise. What is amazing is Sambath journeyed for 10 years, giving up weekends, family time, money and any personal agenda to create genuine relationships with those responsible for executing the massacres. All his tapes were kept under lock and key for fear of being confiscated. His family feared for his life every time he left.

You see, Sambath isn’t any ordinary journalist. He’s a journalist whose father was murdered for not wanting to turn over his livestock and property to the communist regime. His brother was also killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. His mother was forced to marry a regime officer and died in childbirth, leaving the rest of his family orphaned.

You would think because of this, Sambath would have an ax to grind. Seeking restitution or revenge would be understandable for someone who experienced first hand the horrors of what happened. But that is not the case. Sambath spent 5 years getting to know Nuon Chea, Brother Number Two of the Khmer Rouge; Pol Pot’s right-hand man. Five years! He visited him, ate with him and spent time forging a trusting relationship. Finally, after years of Nuon Chea denying involvement, he confessed on tape to Sambath all that happened and why. Eventually Sambath shared his family’s story with Nuon Chea.

Along with his relationship with Nuon Chea, he also gained the trust of two of the men who carried out the killings. They shared the horrors of life during that time. They also confessed their remorse and guilt at what they had to become to survive. It was evident in the film these men were desperate for forgiveness and redemption from their past. Personal pain was etched on their faces. Pain I’m not sure their souls will ever overcome on their own.

Sambath and British film maker, Rob Lemkin, joined forces and created this powerful documentary. Present during the festival, they made themselves available for some Q&A at our church’s discussion after the film showing.

What struck me was Sambath’s demeanor. He seemed totally awestruck at the standing ovation given by the sold-out audience at the Missouri Theatre. His humility spoke volumes. I don’t know if he’s Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i, Christian or some other faith. I do know I’ve never seen grace to this extent ever in my life. Sambath seems to have totally forgiven those responsible for crushing his family. During the film, there isn’t any hint of animosity, anger or revenge.

Sambath Gets Grace. He may not even realize it, but his actions personify what all Christians are called to do with our enemies. So hard to do. Human nature wants justice. Human nature wants restitution. Human nature wants those responsible for such evil, heinous crimes held accountable. But grace is what Sambath extends to those who carried out the atrocities of the regime. Grace and friendship is what he extends to Nuon Chei, one of the men responsible, as he shares meals with the man and his family.

Grace: mercy, forgiveness, clemency, pardon, compassion, benevolence.

Since it’s the Christian season of Lent, I hope we all try and emulate Sambath as we prepare to celebrate the most famous display of grace and triumph over evil—Easter. I hope we can pause and imagine what it would be like to be in the killer’s shoes. Yes, put ourselves in the shoes of the men and women who carried out these sins against humanity. After all, no matter what degree of “badness,” we are all sinners before a holy, perfect God. As Easter approaches, may we truly understand the saving power of the grace of Jesus Christ, and the restitution of our souls He made on our behalf. May we understand it, emulate it, extend it and receive it.

And if you get a chance to see the movie… GO!


Werewolves and Vampires and Bella, oh my!

I’ve been to Middle Earth a few times, am regular visitor at Hogwarts, and have wandered around in Narnia from time to time. But, I arrived late to Forks, WA.

I just watched Twilight and went to see New Moon with Army Wife, who “runs with werewolves.” I have not read the books yet, but noticed one has appeared on my nightstand. I have to admit, I was not really keen on this story in the beginning. I sneaked into the movie theater with friends when I was an underage teen and saw Andy Warhol’s Dracula (the violence-laced  X-rated version), watched Interview with a Vampire on cable when Tom Cruise was normal, and suffered through the  TV series Buffy, the Vampire Slayer with preteenage girls back in the 90s. I just didn’t think there could be a new spin on this old tale.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the movies. Aside from great marketing, I totally understand why it has achieved cult status so quickly. It’s a sweet chick flick…if a vampire story can be sweet…and recognizable themes of Pride & Prejudice and Romeo & Juliet are woven throughout.

There are some twists and turns that cause me to turn to Army Wife for an explanation. Her response is always the same. “I can’t tell you. You’ll have to read the books.”

The romance between Bella and Edward is a little sappy at times, but that adds to the appeal of love over lust. The Jacob-Bella-Edward triangle leaves you rooting for the underdog wolf much of the time, and Bella’s teenage angst feels very real for anyone who has found themselves as an outsider…especially in the low self-esteem teenage years.

For me, the Twilight phenomenon won’t surpass Harry Potter’s story of sacrificial love. It will never come close to the two icons of fantasy literature, The Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia. However, within the story is a theme that is super appealing. Personal free choice and being able to change your life’s path and direction…to reinvent yourself…has huge crossover appeal to many generations, especially in this day and age.

But unlike Middle Earth, Narnia and Hogwarts, Forks is a real place. And, because of the Twilight phenomena, is enjoying quite a tourist boom due to the books and movies. I always find it fascinating how art (film) intersects with culture, mimicking values, trends and the priorities of the age. And how the stories and characters come alive and catch people up in a frenzy. For now, for me, it’s a nice little fantasy break from life. I will take Army Wife’s advice and read the books before I weigh in completely on the saga.

Where the Wild Things Are

Call me crazy, but I was not as sold on the movie, Where the Wild Things Are, as some of the rest of you. Blogs praise the movie, and despite the debate of whether it’s too scary for small children, the reviews are positive.

Army Wife and I went to see it as a mom and grandmom of a soon-to-be book fanatic. I struggled with reconciling the movie in front of me with how I envisioned the animation of the book.

The puppetry is amazing and I do believe Max’s angst and hostility was captured well. I saw a lonely little boy who didn’t belong in either his sister’s world or the one his mom was creating with a new man. Add his teacher who rants about the sun burning out and you have the basis for a very depressing movie. It’s no wonder the child feels he has to escape! And I know that’s the whole point. Most nine-year-olds don’t have the capabilities to work through emotions like feeling abandoned, depressed, frustrated and sad with life. Lashing out, inappropriate responses and retreating into fantasy is, sometimes, the only refuge.

Max finds out his new land is inhabited by monsters with a host of problems of their own. Instead of being the problem, Max is empowered to try and help them with their issues. It’s a tale of being a big fish in a little pond instead of being an insignificant part of a world you cannot control. I think Max begins to understand how messy life is…for everyone…everywhere. Despite his efforts, he cannot really help the monsters with their issues. Only they can change their circumstances, and thereby change their lives for the better. He flees back to the security of his own world, even though it’s messy as well.

His adventure reminds me of a quote I heard somewhere, “Never venture into your mind without a flashlight and a friend.”

What bothers me is we never find out what is the root of Max’s angst. We can only imagine. Just like he uses his imagination to escape from the darkness of his mind. Consequently, when he returns, we don’t know if/how his life will be any different, what he learned and how it will affect him from now on. If the movie speaks to anyone, it should speak to adults about making the most of the time with your children…placing importance on being more than just physically there. The world can be a scary place for kids. Adults have enough trouble coping. How can we expect the youngest generation to do any better?

When the movie ends abruptly with Max’s mom falling asleep at the table while he is scarfing down comfort food (chocolate cake), Army Wife and I looked at each other with “Is that it?” expressions. We were expecting so much more.

Well done? Yes. Weird? Absolutely. Will it be part of the video library? Nope.

I’ll take the book over the movie any day.

 

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

July 15th. Marked in red on the calendar. I’ll be sitting in the theater impatiently waiting through 20 minutes of previews before watching Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. It will visually fulfill the images in my imagination and reinforce my opinion of the series.

I’ve read the books. Twice. I own the movies. And, I’m a Christian. How can that be, you ask? Because I realize the “magic” in Harry Potter is fantasy…just like the magical elements in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by the beloved CS Lewis, and Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Why are the Narnia Chronicles revered with its magic and symbolism while Harry Potter is reviled in some circles? Why do some not bat an eye at The Wizard of Oz, any and all Disney-fide fairy tales, or movies like The Secret Garden and Little Princess? Technically, all deal with “occult” themes. To me, there is an ocean of difference between fantasy and the occult. I do not find anything in the books encouraging demonic practices. Clearly, most people aspire to be like the good characters, not the evil ones. The fantastic things that happen at Hogwarts are no more real than the things that happen in Narnia or Middle Earth…or Oz. It’s fantasy and pure imagination. And imagination is the heart of creativity.

Fantasy is paramount to a child’s imagination; and magic is part of that. Too many Christians misunderstand the magic in these stories only serves as the means to expose the frailty of the human condition. Weak versus powerful; greed versus sacrifice; friendship versus relationship abuse; good versus evil; repentance versus pride. Many people misuse the purpose of the book for their own agendas and completely miss the central message.

For me, the series of Harry Potter is the embodiment of sacrificial love. And for those that know Scripture, there are two biblical references interwoven throughout the characters and events. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26) and “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21). Coincidence? Personally, I don’t think so.

From Lily’s sacrificial love protecting her son by her death, to Harry’s “death” to save his friends, the theme is prevalent. Even Professor Snape displays this trait in more than one way in the end. The story pits the quest for greed, power and earthly treasures against sacrifice, love and the well being of others ahead of personal gain. Over an over, the story shows how ambition to succeed at any cost is ultimate ruin. By Dumbledore’s own admission, pride, vanity, greed and obsession can destroy a person’s soul.  In the end, Harry gives up his quest to possess the Hallows and their power to, instead, lay down his life for his friends.

There are many reflections in the series to the central values of Christianity; truth, loyalty, service, care for those weaker, and sacrificial love. These values are threaded throughout the series. Harry, Sirius, Dumbledore, Serverus, Lily and Dobby all display Christian values and self-sacrificing traits to help and protect those they love. I think the parallels in these books to the Gospel story is inspiring.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Chocolat

Chocolat is one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen it 5 times and have developed a different take on the movie than the one normally discussed. As a Christian, we’re encouraged to be participants in the world and its cultures. We were never meant to be sequestered in a “holy huddle,” blocking out the world around us. Chocolat may depict the two opposing worldviews of sacred vs secular on the surface. I think this movie goes far beyond the seemingly obvious.

The Count: most agree he represents the rigid, legalism of the Christian stereotype. Stepped in tradition, he cannot/will not break from his traditional, “Pharisaic” behavior.  He represents misguided faith that relies on works and “correctness.”

Vianne: rather than a metaphor for the culture that encourages indulging in desires, I see her living the Gospel of compassion, kindness and patience through her actions and relationships. She mysteriously appears in the lives of the townspeople and forever changes them, one person at a time. The movie never comes out and says she is a pagan, but the Mayan storyline creates the impression she is a non-Christian. For me, she represents a rejection of the Count’s version of religion. Just as Christ was considered an outsider with his “heretical” religious philosophies, Vianne is an outsider because she upsets the norm. In reality, she lives a more authentic Christ-like life than anyone else. She embraces second chances.

The wind: Depicted as “the winds of change,” it’s much more. Chocolat’s north wind is an unsettling force. It stirs up discomfort, threatening to upset the “tranquility” of lives. Not unlike what God does to us when we get too complacent and stuck in our comfort zones. Change blows into our lives uninvited and we are helpless to stop it.

Chocolate: the ultimate satisfaction and sweetness of life brought on not by indulging in our desires, but by living life with the full knowledge of how joyous and fulfilling it can be, once we are out from under the rigid legalism of misguided religion.

Scene comments
1. The Count’s temptation/rejection of his meager meal vs the chocolate birthday party: On the surface this scene depicts the dryness of the Christian life contrasted with the carefree indulging of the “secular.” I see it more as contrasting a faith lived like that of the Count (unfulfilling and starved for real sustenance) against what a person could enjoy through actually living the Gospel and developing relationships. The Count’s faith isolates him from developing relationships. A true faith shares the sweetness of life with others, welcoming a diversity of people. The pure enjoyment on the faces of the birthday partygoers represents tasting and seeing how good life can be!

2. The wind blowing the church doors open: I liked the analogy of the Count shutting out the winds of change by hiding behind his religion. I also see the wind as representing the freedom of the Spirit that stirs us up only to have a false sense of religion shut our hearts and minds to the real change needed to bring fullness of life. Without this wind blowing into our lives, we live in a dark world of religiosity and shallow faith.

3. The Count in the window of the Chocolate shop: Sooner or later, our legalism gets the best of us and we collapse under its pressure. The Count, in trying so hard to live up to an impossible standard, is finally overwhelmed by his sinfulness. When he wakes up to Vianne, he is not met with the retaliatory judgment he deserves, but with grace and forgiveness. It is a life-changing scene, not because he succumbs to the worldview of giving into desire, but because, for the first time, he experiences a real sense of what grace/forgiveness is all about. What better day for that to happen than Easter Sunday! The scene also shows how God takes seemingly destructive situations and bring good out of it. How many times has God used un-Christian-like situations/people to reinforce his sovereignty and forever change lives?

4. Armande Voizin’s comment to not be so concerned about “shouldn’t”: While it’s reasonable to view this as promoting a worldview of doing whatever you like, it can also be encouraging us to stop viewing our faith as a bunch of shouldn’ts—and ignoring the real message of the Gospel. Real Christianity is much more than a laundry list of what we “shouldn’t” do.

Two other character studies (I’m almost finished, I promise):

Pantoufle (Anouk’s imaginary friend): the imaginary crutches we cling to when faced with uncomfortable situations. What types of crutches do we use to help us deal with life? It’s only when we feel secure and content that these psychological afflictions heal and “hop” away, disappearing from our life. A secure, happy life only happens when we accept the Truth and put our faith in something more than ourselves.

Roux: eye candy, pure and simple. ☺