Tag: movies

Five Ways to Teach Classics in High School Literature Class

Shakespeare. The Bard. A true genius in literary circles. Ask anyone with an advanced degree in the subject. And some without a degree at all concur.

Me? Not so much.

That didn’t stop me from teaching OTHELLO in four sophomore classrooms a few weeks ago. What I mean by “teach” is to let an audio recording read Act IV to the class while I paused occasionally to ask clarifying questions and double-check for understanding.
And once to just point out the lovely irony the Bard does so well which I do like.
The students had time to write a summary and pick out some figurative language for their assignment. I admit, by class three, I was commenting on some of the personification in one of Othello’s monologues.

Does that count as giving them answers? *shrugs*

Then I played the 1995 movie. Kenneth Brannagh plays Honest (HA) Iago and Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus from MATRIX) takes the title role. We watched Act IV.

Yes, I did this four times. I was playing Words with Friends and scrolling through Facebook during the movie the last few times. Although I did chime in when something was clarified once they could SEE it played out.

Shakespeare scripts were meant to be seen not read.

No matter what you say, I will not be pursuaded from this. If there hadn’t been movie adaptations for the nine plays I had to watch in my college Shakespeare class, I would have failed it.
The man didn’t even give stage directions.

You need the actors to interpret it for you and then learn from their actions.

It was during the final teaching session that a sophomore boy asked, “Why do we have to read this? Couldn’t we study something newer and easier to understand and learn the same things?”

Oh, young man, we certainly do need to study (not read) Shakespeare and other classics. But it’s time to be honest, high school students aren’t getting much out of it.

Use something modern that alludes to the classic.

In preparation for writing this post, I Goggled “Why teach classics in high school?” Links back to many of the articles I found on the subject will be included.

One article on an Advanced Placement literature help site claimed it was a disservice not to teach classics. One of the main arguments was because so many modern references derive their meaning from classical literature.

It’s true. As an aside, I fully believe advanced literature courses should cover the classics, and only the classics. Those students are preparing for college and they’ll need the analytical skills a great literature class teaches.

For the average student, I might recommend a book like THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt. In it, the narrator is forced to study Shakespeare while every other student in his class goes to their weekly religious classes.

The students will engage with this novel’s story, and teachers can take time to delve slightly into the Shakespearian references that are made. In this way, the class stays engaged with the reading, and those who find Shakespeare interesting have now been given a sample. They’re free to check him out of the library or binge watch him on Netflix.

Pair a small bite of a classic with something more current.

Most students shut down when you show them an old story. They don’t care how much it influenced literature or society. All they care about is that it is OLD, and therefore doesn’t relate to them.
Students of literature know better. But general high school classes aren’t meant to make literature buffs out of students.

What is the purpose of literature class in high school? Go ahead and Google it. I did.

Students think the purpose it so learn to research a topic and write an essay on it. Teachers think it’s about grammar, vocabulary, reading and comprehension of broad categories (so why do they have to read a Shakespeare play in every year of high school?), studying the literary culture of English societies and organizing information and communicating it to others. Oh, they say the research and citation aspect is also important.

In any case, there is no reason to wade through hundreds of pages of classical literature to learn these skills. In the era of memes and movies, students want to be entertained. If you entertain them, they’ll learn more.

Ignoring the culture of learning is antithesis to teaching. Great educators can adapt their methods to fit their students. I know this because I worked in a special education classroom for ten years, and in that room, it was all about adaptation.

Invest in different formats of the classic.

I’m not a fan of graphic novels. I want words or I want pictures.

That doesn’t mean the upcoming generation feels the same. If we can put To Kill A Mockingbird in a more accessible format without damaging the beauty of the original language, why wouldn’t we do it?

If a student will read the book in graphic novel format, isn’t that better than if they don’t read it? You say you’ll read it aloud in class. Fine, but we know how easy it is to tune our brains to something else when we’re not interested in the topic at hand.

The key is in making adaptations that maintain the integrity of the original. And companies are trying to do it. Schools should make a market for this important work by investing in new books in a format that engages their students.

Put the classic into historical context.

Many of the posts I read on the subject said the most important reason for studying the classics was because of the cultural insight it imparts.

Wouldn’t this be better off in history class then?

I’d argue for the combined humanities courses that fall in and out of favor in our state’s middle school environments. That’s a perfect age to marry these two subjects.

But those students aren’t going to wade through UNCLE TOM’S CABIN to understand the American cultural climate. Good grief! I barely managed to wade through it as a junior in high school and I was an advanced reader and writer who devoured any book that was handed to me.

Except that one. But I did slog through it.

An excerpt or two could be gleaned from the text on the pertinent cultural lessons. This way, students can access the benefits in a dose they can handle.

Curate the substance and present it in a medium students relate with.

English and literature teachers are the experts on the subject matter. However, they aren’t meant to make experts of their students.

That’s why there are curriculum learning objectives.

As an author, I have to kill my darlings if I want to produce stories that readers will read. This means brilliantly written scenes get cut from the manuscript and filed in my “cut scenes” document.

High school teachers need to do the same. Is symbolism in literature an important thing for students to grasp? And if it is, then choose a modern book they are familiar with (one that has a movie to go along with it) to teach it.

Why? Because using a source they aren’t interested in to teach them a subject they think is pointless is only going to frustrate everyone. They won’t learn, and you’ll feel like a horrible teacher.

The English department at every high school needs to have a round table. The state mandates the learning objectives. Let the teachers decide which literature is best suited to the objective and the audience.

Too often, thought isn’t given to the audience. For an author, that’s the top of an ice-slick slope with an avalanche brewing at your feet. It’s time teachers realized it puts them in a precarious position to only think about what they want to teach instead of how their students will best learn.
What are your thoughts? Did you LOVE reading ROMEO AND JULIET in high school? Are there other ways to teach classics to teenagers who play video games and watch movies rather than read?

INFINITY WAR Aftershock

This girl is an Avengers fan (as far as the Marvel movie universe goes, anyway). So, I’ve been counting down the days until I could see the latest film.

Some people I know and love went to see it on opening night. Two of them were actually going to the movies with me and my husband when we saw it two days later.

But I can’t blame people for being excited. I did the same thing with the Wonder Woman film last summer.

Here’s some non-spoiler things they said about the movie:

SON: Have you seen THOR RAGNAROK?

ME: Yep. Twice. Cracks me up every time.

SON: It starts right where that one left off (if you stayed to watch the after-credits scene).

ME: I know some people are going to die.

DAUGHTER: Yeah, I even cried.

ME: (Gulps) As long as Cap doesn’t die…

DAUGHTER: Yeah. You’re not going to like it.

WHAT! I was totally worried they were going to kill off Captain America after that tidbit.

A later conversation with someone who hadn’t seen the movie yet. He just happens to be a comic book reader (more power to him, but comic books give me a headache.) I want words. Or I want pictures.

ME: So what happens in the comic book.

NEPHEW: Thanos wins.

ME: Well, that’s not right. What about the Avengers?

NEPHEW: Everybody dies.

HELP! I’m drowning in suspenseful dread at this point.

Just to confirm that I wouldn’t throw something in the theater or leave screaming, I had another conversation with my kids who’d already seen the story.

ME: Is there at least a complete story?

SON: *pauses to think* Yeah. It’s not a cliffhanger ending, but you know there has to be more coming.

ME: Then whose story is it.

DAUGHTER: Everyone’s.

ME: No. That’s not the way it works. If you had to pick someone, whose story would it be.

SON: Thanos

ME: (inside my head) ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I’M NOT PAYING TO GO SEE SOME VILLAIN’S STORY.

DAUGHTER: Yeah, but it’s kind of Thor’s story, too.

ME: (sighs in relief)

And then we showed up at the theater at 6:30 pm on Sunday for our 7:00 showing of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

I was ready for this. I’d been counting down the days. There’s no way I was going to let a few cryptic remarks get me down.

After 20 minutes of previews ( I wish I was joking about this), I’m about ready to march up to the tech booth (or whatever it’s called) and force the movie to start.

After watching the movie, there are still TWO I don’t get.

Two hours later, I’m speechless. Shocked. Stunned. Unsure how to even comprehend what the Marvel writers were thinking.

It’s the morning after now. I’m still contemplating the ramifications of this film. 

A review will come on this very blog later. But first, I need to watch the movie again and decide if I like it or not.

Have you seen it? Did you like it? Only non-spoiler comments in response to these questions please–and thank you.

The Ins and Outs of Being a Substitute Teacher

On this Monday morning, the door to the classroom is open. The teacher I’m replacing is at her desk gathering some last minute items for the field trip she’s chaperoning today. She doesn’t make eye contact when she says, “Are you my sub?” and hands me the sheet of paper with the lesson plans typed on it.

As I’m scanning it, she mentions that I might get asked to cover some other classes since she has two periods when she only has “teacher’s assistants” in the room. I’d like to ask about this, but I don’t. Instead I’m thinking, “This is going to be a long day.”

What Adds Hours

I’ve worked in education long enough to know that plenty of substitute teachers bring a thick novel and hope they’ll get uninterrupted reading time during their day. I’m not one of those.

Sure, I have my tablet, and there are always books to be read on one of my digital reader apps. Most of the time, I plan to use the planning period (at least) to work on whatever project I’m writing that day. Or I might whip out a blog post or two (like this one).

But for the most part, a day where students aren’t going to be engaging with me tends to be a L-O-N-G one. Here are some things I might see in sub plans that tell me this eight hours is going to feel like sixteen:

  • A movie (that will be played for three or four different classes)
  • Ongoing work on a project (like the essay in the sophomore language arts class today)
  • Silent reading of a text and a corresponding worksheet
  • Traveling to the computer lab to work on something
  • An online assignment (because many of the students will head off to a fun place in cyberspace and will conveniently ignore me when I try to redirect them)

This last one is what the seniors in honors language arts are doing on the day I’m penning this. They’re honors students, so they might be more on-task than the average class, but they’re seniors too. And it is the week before spring break.


Things You Wouldn’t Think You’d Do

Babysitting students while they supposedly work on an ongoing assignment is expected. Teachers don’t know what sort of substitute will be filling in for them (unless they request a specific one), and maybe the substitute won’t know the first thing out the subject matter.
Thus, I tried not to feel offended during this conversation today:

Me: “So should I expect some students will want me to check off this sheet before they begin writing?”
Teacher: “I wouldn’t worry about that.” Pause. “Unless you feel comfortable identifying themes.”
Me: Stunned into silence.

Hello? I have an English literature degree. And I’m familiar with Bradbury’s classic FAHRENHEIT 451. Are you serious right now?
But worse than that expectation that I wouldn’t “get” what sophomores are doing is the drill that will be held during second period. The vice-principal came in first thing to hand me the “procedures.”
I’ve already been on a fire drill at this school. But today there will be a LOCK DOWN drill. This is preparatory for a “live shooter” or “other threat” on campus.
So, when the announcement comes on, I’ll get to pull the blinds, switch of the lights and huddle under my desk with a class full of teenagers. All of them will have their phones out, and I’m supposed to keep them off those.

Because in the event of an actual lock down, those lights would be an open invitation to the threat that the room was filled with innocents. Not really a message we want to give out.

As the VP explains things to me (and I’m not a novice to this, so he really didn’t have to), he ends the conversation with, “It’s unfortunate that we even have to practice this.”

Unfortunate might be an understatement. This is the world we live in where people won’t even let kids learn in peace at school.

And then they decide to have a fire drill on the back side of sitting on the floor in the dark for six minutes. I’m sure you can guess how engaged those sophomores were when we came back to class 20 minutes later.


What Adds Interest

I didn’t want to end this post with a negative tone, so let’s talk about things that add interest to my day of substitute teaching. There are a few. It’s not always glorified babysitting (with a WAY better paycheck than I ever earned back in the day).

I’m a writer. I love reading. You can imagine what sort of things I’d find interesting when in the same room with teenagers. Things like:

  • Reading and discussing an article
  • Reading and discussing a short story with a specific purpose (like writing a paragraph on some literary device or element afterward)
  • Reading and discussing poetry
  • Watching a video that will spark a conversation that segues into an assignment
  • Brainstorming ideas for stories (a rare joy these days)
  • Class discussion when students actually participate

There are probably other things that have made the hours slide by in a middle or high school classroom. In the end, it boils down to student engagement and teacher-student interaction.

What things have you done at work lately that were unexpected? What makes the day drag on and on for you?

7 Reasons to Read

I read because I love it. I’ve worked in education for about fifteen years, and it’s clear that passion is not strong with the younger generations. But there are plenty of other great reasons to read.

1. Knowledge

After learning most of the teachers I worked with for YEARS didn’t read a single textbook in college, I started contemplating this.

How much knowledge is attained through reading?

I’ll pick up facts without even trying when I read a book. I’ve heard people say they read historical fiction to learn about history rather than listening to dry lectures or reading a sleep-inducing text.

Not everyone learns visually. In that case, reading might not be the best source of knowledge for them. But in this era when there’s an app that will read a book for you, the audio learners don’t really have an excuse to avoid the textbooks anymore.

2. Information

Is this the same as knowledge?

I don’t think so.

Here’s the way I would distinguish between the two. I search Google for the phone number so I can make an appointment for a massage. I needed specific information.

I wasn’t hanging out hoping the Internet would enlighten me on the different types of massage. That’s knowledge-seeking.

We read to obtain information dozens of times every day. This is why I believe schools should teach HOW to find information above trying to understand Shakespeare.

3. Entertainment

This is the major reason I pick up a fiction book. And I’m conscious of the entertainment value of the stories I write.

*The person who despises reading gapes* Yes, reading is highly entertaining if the writing and story are great. (No, writing is NOT the same as story.)

On the average day, I would rather read for entertainment than do most anything else. In our media-driven society, most people would prefer to watch TV or movies or play a video game. But those activities don’t stimulate your mind the same way reading does.

Which is why, when my brain is sore from the work of writing, I might choose to watch a movie or stream Arrow from Netflix.


4. Escape

Books offer a portal to places you could never dream. This is the reason I started reading fantasy when I was a kid.
Life was hard and ugly. I didn’t like the way my parents talked to each other. Then I didn’t like them getting divorced.

I would carry a book with me everywhere and read it whenever there was a spare minute. This way, I didn’t have to think about my own life. I could transport myself into someone else’s problems.

And even if they were worse (Hello? White Witch trapping everyone in winter?), they provided a break from what I was facing.

I don’t recommend using ANYTHING as an ongoing method of escape. But if you can’t afford a vacation or your world is tilting upside down, a book is a great way to escape long enough to regain your equilibrium.

5. Requirement

We’ll head back to school now, and talk about reading because you’re required to do it. And we’ll try not to think too deeply about teachers who didn’t do their required reading. (Yes, this bugs me.)

But in adulthood, you might be assigned reading, too. Your boss might give you a report and say, “Read this, then we’ll talk about how to deal with it.”

Or you might need to read trade magazines in order to keep up with changes in your field. If you’re buying a house, you ought to read the sales contract (and the mortgage documents).

What are some other things people are required to read?


6. Personal Growth

In the past, I haven’t been a fan of reading nonfiction books. I mean, there are only so many reading hours in a day, and I’d rather spend them in Fantasyland.

But beginning last year, I decided to read nonfiction before going to sleep. And not just any nonfiction book would do. I chose those focusing on personal or spiritual growth issues.

I’ve read books on building a business, loving my family more and appreciating my creativity. I don’t read related subjects back to back, and so far, I’ve been impressed with the books I’ve read.

Many of them came through personal recommendation. If you know of some I should add to my list, leave the titles in the comments.

7. Health

Some might argue that reading for your health is the same as personal growth or required reading tasks. I disagree.

Doing something to improve your health carries it’s own weight (even if you’re hoping for personal growth). And numerous studies reveal that reading helps improve memory and concentration, and relieves stress.

Those sound like three great reasons to pick up a book and read away.

Can you think of other great reasons to read? Let’s hear them!

LA LA LAND of Dreams

In my experience, watching award-winning films is a mixed bag. Some are masterpieces in every way and others leave a person shaking their head (UNFORGIVEN). So I had low expectations when I viewed LA LA LAND.

This is not a review of the movie. It’s a reflection of underlying themes in any work of art.

Appreciation of art is utterly subjective. I will throw my hands up at cubist paintings while another person is deeply moved. I’ll see paint splatters and psych evaluation ink dot images in some impressionistic works while others can easily envision what the artist intended.

So if I’ve already offended you because you loved UNFORGIVEN or hated AMADEUS (an old Academy winner that I especially enjoyed), I apologize. Not for my opinion but that you found it offensive because it was not offered up for that purpose.

The Story

This is a story about a girl who wants to be an actress and a boy who is an accomplished musician but has bottomed-out while seeking his dream (of owning a jazz club).

Girl meets boy when she hears him playing the piano at a restaurant when she’s walking by. (I loved that the tune of that song underwrote most of the music for the score. In my opinion, this is composition at its finest.) He’s just been fired for not sticking to the manager’s set list, so he blows by her with hardly a glance.

Later they meet up at a party and it’s the “boy and girl despise each other when they meet” trope in action. Neither of them are looking for love or a relationship and that’s when it blindsides you.

They support each other’s art, but they come to a crossroads where the choice seems to be “career/dream” or “relationship.” He has chosen a career and it isn’t fulfilling him, and her dream lets her down. They part with the assurance “I’ll always love you.”

Five years later, a “chance” meeting sends them spiraling down the path of  “what if.” And while it appears they have both “arrived” at their dream, neither of them appears happy.

My Takeaway

Dreams can only take you so far.

If you’ve followed me long, you know I’m a middle-aged woman who has only been pursuing her dreams for seven years, and single-mindedly for four years. I am a proponent for never giving up on dreams.

However, I wouldn’t give up my family or my husband if it meant that I had every dream I’ve imagined (best sellers, movie adaptations, million-dollar contracts, etc.)

To me, that is what happened in the movie. Especially for Sebastian. Mia moved on and found another man, had a daughter, although her reaction when she heard him play tells me it wasn’t all golden for her either.

In the “what if” scenario, both of them ended up in the same place–dreams fulfilled–but they were together.

The theme here was about choices and how one can alter everything–for better or worse.

A dream might have a price, but some prices are too high to pay. Each person must decide what the “upper limit” will be for them. Sadly, we might not realize how much we’ve lost until it’s too late to recover it.

A feeling of melancholy accompanied the end of this film. The dreams didn’t seem to bring as much joy to Mia and Seb as their time together. It was a reminder to count the cost, appreciate what you have and live each moment.

Have you seen LA LA LAND? What theme stood out to you? What emotion did the film leave with you?

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Why Tarzan is Still my Hero

Tarzan has been around since before black and white television had Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller portrayed the character whose legend has been recapped many times in movies and comics. Tarzan of the Apes was an all-human superhero (in the jungle at least).
Recently, my husband and I watched the 2016 remake called THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, and I was reminded of my childhood crush on this hero of the jungle.


Edgar Rice Burroughs breathed life into Tarzan in 1912 with a story in The All Story Magazine. In 1918, Hollywood produced the first of nearly three dozen movies (not including TV series) featuring this vine-swinging man who could talk to animals.
Weismuller stared in twelve of these films between 1932 and 1948, so it’s no wonder his name was the first to come to mind.
Even Walt Disney took a shot and animated a couple films featuring this well-loved hero (if the frequency of remakes and story lines is any clue). Millennials remember the music of Phil Collins more than anything else about those movies.
Regardless of the worldwide love affair with the loincloth clad man, I watched this latest movie and recalled several reasons why Tarzan is still a hero to me.

Overcoming Obstacles

Tarzan’s parents died when he was a baby. A female gorilla found and adopted him, but imagine being a human in the troop of gorillas led by a 500-pound alpha…who didn’t want you around.
His humanity would have made him weak among the powerful apes. He wouldn’t have the protection of fur against the elements and predators, nor would he have the strength and bone structure to travel with speed among the trees.
But humans are adaptable. In this newest movie, there was great care given to the changes in his hands and arms because he’d learned to be an ape before being human.
He would have been bullied, an outcast among the troop.
Talk about an underdog.
But his humanity made him curious about the other animals, and he befriended them. Yes, even learning to communicate with them. We all know about the Tarzan yell.

Standing for the Weak

Likely because he had been the weak one for much of his life, Tarzan champions the cause of those being targeted by stronger species. Whether it is his gorilla family or elephants being poached, he doesn’t accept senseless brutality.
As you know in my posts about Captain America and Wonder Woman, this, in my opinion, is the mark of a true hero. He has power but he uses it to help others.
In this movie, it’s the tribesmen who are being enslaved and the animals being poached that earn his protection. Of course, he intends to rescue Jane, but she’s as adamant about protecting their “families” as he is.

Adapting without Losing Character

One of the lines that stuck with me from this film happens near the dark moment. Tarzan has been “sold” to a tribe of natives. The chief of this tribe wants revenge because Tarzan killed his son many years ago (the son had killed Tarzan’s ape “mother”).
Tarzan defeats the chief and much of the armed tribe in hand-to-hand combat and hold a knife to the chief’s throat. They discuss this impasse.

The chief claims his son was just a boy and asks, “Where was your honor?”
Tarzan honestly replies, “I had none.”

He was raised by animals to be an animal. The argument of nature versus nurture comes into play. Was he little more than an ape when he carried out the retribution against the native? Or should he have had more scruples, as a man would (although a goodly number of the men in this film did NOT have any)?
He admitted his lack. He acted on instinct and out of pain and anger. Wasn’t the chief now doing the same thing? Where did this talk of honor come from then?
But as Tarzan learned to be human, he rejected those traits that didn’t mesh with his ingrained love for family. Gorillas are fiercely protective of both territory and troop members, and Tarzan learned this well.
When he met humans, they saved him. Then they tried to capture him and ruin his home. He learned not to trust them. That they would lie and steal and cheat. Were they really more “advanced” than the apes who raised him to survive in the jungle?

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN sends Tarzan and Jane back to the Congo at the request (so they believe) of the Dutch king, since Congo became a colony of the Dutch when all the Europeans finished warring over it in the late 1890s. Really it’s part of a plot to mine diamonds to pay the Dutch debt.
Samuel L. Jackson played an American fighting against slavery and offered plenty of comedic relief in the tense plot.
What do you love about Tarzan? Or who is a figure you saw a heroic in your childhood that doesn’t get much recognition these days?

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Wonder Woman Screen Triumph

Wonder Woman is my kind of hero, and since I’m holding out for a hero around here, more Wonder Woman content might appear here than on other blogs.  Although, she’s pretty popular at the moment.

And I think her red, white, and blue costume is perfect for Independence Day. All this because Wonder Woman’s feature film catapulted her to the top of many charts.

This isn’t another movie review. You can read my thoughts on the movie here.

Today I’m going to enumerate the things ONLY screenwriters and filmmakers could do for Wonder Woman. Well, except for what the gal does for herself by being a demigod with a pure heart and idealistic motives.

The Superpowers

I have no idea what powers Wonder Woman had in the comics. I watched the television series featuring Lynda Carter, and I knew about superhuman strength, bulletproof bracelets, a boomerang tiara, the lasso of truth and an invisible jet.

The filmmakers include all of those things with the caveat that Wonder Woman can fly on her own. So there’s no invisible jet, just demi-god propelled soaring.

They also give her a shield and sword. The shield might not be as awesome as Captain America’s, but it gives her the protection she needs to walk into machine gun fire. And it works well as a springboard during some of the fight scenes.

The sword, God-Killer, is given prominent screen time, but in the end, it doesn’t live up to its name. It’s a false talisman, and Diana’s courage nearly crumbles along with it.

The best power? Diana realizes love is the greatest power of all.

This felt a little cliche to me, especially since the filmmakers are claiming there wasn’t a romance between Steve and Diana (which there is in the comic book world).

But the sentiment? I totally endorse it.

What did I covet? That lasso. She used it like a whip, a slingshot and of course to reveal the truth of the situation.

Super Visual Effects

Gal Gadot is amazing, but you have to give credit to the digital effects team. And it’s a large team. Don’t believe me? Watch the credits. *20 minutes later* See what I mean?

From the beginning, viewers see the Amazon warriors as superior athletes, performing martial arts moves and acrobatic feats to aid them in their hand-to-hand combat. When Zeus created them to save mankind from constant war, battles were fought in close quarters.

The reaction to the advanced technology the Germans brought to the island? It was sadly lacking. Diana should have been more surprised by the weaponry of the early 20th Century. And how could her training possibly hold up in the face of tanks and automatic gunfire?

The filmmakers give ample room and reason for Wonder Woman to use the fighting skills to awe and inspire everyone. Her demigod reflexes thrust those bracelets (okay, really bracers or vambraces, but that doesn’t sound as pretty does it?) in the path of speeding bullets. But how did she know it would deflect them?

The ultimate battle with Ares could have been more awesome. He didn’t toss around his lightning early or with pizzazz. And he didn’t feel evil to me.

Maybe that was the point?

If you saw the movie, what things did the filmmakers amaze you with? What could they have done better?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

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Do you have to be Sarah Connor to be a Tough Woman?

Sarah Connor faced down The Terminator. And went to the loony bin where she worked out a plan of escape.

If you’ve watched any of the Terminator movies, you know the story. Sarah’s son John Connor is the one who unites humanity in the future war against machines. Machines that somehow achieved sentience and began destroying their human creators.

How’s that for gratitude?

Sarah Connor is one tough mama. In the original movie, she’s on the run like crazy from the Terminator. This is the only movie wherein her son sent a human back in time to preserve the time line make sure he would even be born. Yeah, I like the twist of that first movie the best.

In Judgment Day, we see an older and much more buff version of the scared blonde from the first movie. This is the Sarah Connor everyone identifies as someone too tough to be messed with.

I mean, check out those arms?

sarah-connor

How many pushups and pullups does a girl have to do while locked in a room at the funny farm to get those guns?

And Sarah is good with all kinds of guns.

But that’s not what makes a woman tough.

My Tough Gal Checklist

Let’s face it, if we met Sarah Connor on the street, toting her assault rifle, we wouldn’t be in awe. We’d be terrified.

So how can we be tough without being scary? (Unless scary is what you’re going for)

Here’s what it takes to be a tough woman:

  • Stand for what you believe in
  • Don’t back down from protecting others
  • Avoid confrontation if there’s a better way to solve the problem
  • Solve problems rather than complaining about them
  • Put your family’s safety first
  • Speak the truth with a loving tone (and never with the intent to wound)
  • Push back without pushing buttons
  • Work hard for what you want
  • Take care of your responsibilities
  • Ask for help when you need it (hey, tough women know they can’t do it all on their own)

What things would you add to this list?

How Average is Amazing

Too many times, women blow up their ideal role model into something larger than life. And then feel like total failures when she doesn’t measure up.

Sarah Connor is a fictional character.

You are a real person.

I’d rather be around the real you. Average is nothing to scoff at.

In fact, most of the time the average mother is nothing short of amazing. The average homemaker is a wizard of accomplishment. The average teacher is underpaid but doesn’t give her students any less because of if.

Average can be amazing when we decide to keep moving forward.

How many things on the checklist above describe you? If even five of them do, I’d say you’re pretty amazing.

Let’s face it, none of us want to have to protect our family from a machine-gun toting robot that can’t be destroyed. The models that can reshape themselves into any form and mimic voices? We wouldn’t even know if we met up with those terminators.

What do you think makes someone tough? What do you admire most about Sarah Connor?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.

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Captain America: Is it all about the Bromance?

Opinion_Cover

Captain America is the ultimate super hero. I’ve said this before. In detail (you can read about it here).

That’s why I was a little offended when some people claimed Cap was dumping on the world in order to save Bucky.

It was bad enough when they claimed Cap didn’t have a real reason for neglecting the treaty. You know, the Sokovia initiative that 117 countries in the UN had agreed would govern future missions of the Avengers.

These naysayers assassinated Captain Rogers’ character because he turned on his “team.” All because protecting Bucky was more important than anything. Cap forfeited his good name and reputation all in the name of bromance.

I disagree. Cap wanted to help Bucky, sure, but it’s all about freedom with Captain Rogers. It always has been. Ever since we met him before World War 2. Back before he was an “enhanced” human.

I blame the storytellers for this misunderstanding – or misrepresentation, depending on if you’re #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan. They didn’t do the best job laying down out the cause and effect bread crumbs.

Why did Iron Man, a guy who flouted authority at every turn, suddenly change his mind? Why did the team captain, a known rule-follower, stop following the status quo?

Motives

Iron Man’s change of heart was linked to his encounter with the grieving mother in the basement of MIT.

Thousands of people died in the combined alien attacks the Avengers defended against. Why did this one boy’s story suddenly make Stark rethink his attitude about accountability?

Bring in the end of his relationship with Pepper. He says himself that signing this treaty is his last ditch effort to win her back. Because he can’t stop putting the suit on. And that has nothing to do with saving the world and everything to do with self-redemption. He said as much to the woman at MIT.

He tried to use the boy’s death to motivate the other Avengers to sign the treaty. This was no different than General Ross’ replay of the destruction caused by their former battles.

Cap_IronMan_CivilWar

Even before Iron Man and the General come calling, Cap is watching the news. He was appalled at the destruction in Nigeria (a mistake). However, he realizes the goal and purpose of the team is bigger than that.

Is Cap calloused about the collateral damage? I don’t think so. He understands the principle of commanding soldiers in every offensive. Innocents will die, but you can limit the number of casualties by eliminating the mastermind criminals.

“You can’t bring them back.”

The biggest contributor to Cap’s change of heart toward the “new rules” proposed by the government is Agent Carter’s death. Specifically her words about compromise resonate with Cap. “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, plant yourself like a tree.”

Cap couldn’t compromise on using his abilities to protect the masses. This isn’t news to anyone who’s been following the franchise. In the first Avengers movie, he told Director Fury something similar.

Captain America’s done being used by politicians to further their agendas. He wasn’t sad to see S.H.I.E.L.D. fall. They had too much control and wanted even more. Their presence was infringing on the right to freedom and justice for Joe American.

The irony: in choosing not to sign this UN proposal he falls into the machinations of the evil mastermind central to Captain America: Civil War.

Manipulations

There’s no doubt that Cap was distracted by the thought of helping Bucky. We saw this in the beginning when the virus-stealing terrorist mentioned his name.

That fact is how the vengeance-seeking villain manipulated the situation. He had “studied” the team, and especially Cap, for a year. He knew Bucky was his “weakness.”

And he used that to move the Avengers around the chessboard of his evil plot.

Emmo manipulated the system to force Cap’s hand. Cap had to choose “follow the new law” (which he never agreed to do) or follow his principles. Would he let the authorities gun down an unconvicted man? (Face it. We all knew Bucky had to be innocent since he was in Bucharest while the UN was bombed in Vienna.)

Cap felt it was his duty to bring Bucky in because he would have the best chance of doing so without collateral damage (and isn’t that was the muckety-mucks were supposedly screaming about?). He went to Bucky’s apartment with the intention of taking him to the authorities.

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

Would he have protected a perfect stranger with the same vigor? I would say yes. Because that is who he is. He’s the defender of the weak, protector of freedom and upholder of justice. Even though the filmmakers have tried to paint him in a different light in this movie.

Another reason Emmo chose to frame Bucky was because he needed the information about the other winter soldiers. The fact that he knew Cap would feel compelled to protect him, even if it meant going against the rest of the team, was an additional bonus.

The logic behind Emmo’s knowledge is another shortfall in this film. How did he know about the Starks’ murder ahead of time? The video footage was an essential part of guaranteeing a fight between Tony and Steve.

On my second viewing of the movie, I did catch how Emmo ordered breakfast from Russia. This insured that room service would discover the dead psychiatrist thus alerting the Avengers that everything had been a set up.

But the power-jealous authorities won’t see it that way. And that’s why Captain America had to step outside the law to deal with this villain.

Is my infatuation with Cap blinding me to this bromance-inspired revolt? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Were the motives for Tony and Cap realistic? Do you think Cap would have signed the treaty if Bucky wasn’t in danger?

Captain America: Vigilante or Hero?

On May 6, 2016, the newest Captain America film hit local theaters. People were challenged to choose a side in this Superhero Civil War. Would you be #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan?

If you read my post after I watched the second Captain America movie, you recall that I dubbed Captain America the perfect superhero. I will be quoting that post here.

After Marvel’s movie makers changed the terms of being a hero, do I still believe Cap is a model superhero? Did the signing of some UN treaty suddenly make following his own moral compass illegal?

Being a Hero

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

In my earlier post, I claimed Captain America was a hero because of these three things:

  1. He fights for justice for everyone
  2. He doesn’t use his power for selfish reasons
  3. He won’t compromise his personal integrity for anyone

However, if the governments of 117 countries decide that he doesn’t have the right to do these things, is he bound to follow them because they are suddenly the majority?

That’s what this movie is all about. Once again, it challenges the idea that a person can be loyal to two people who are at odds with each other. What if they are both right? Whose side do you stand on?

At one point, Iron Man asked Black Widow if she could bring the Hulk in on their team. Her reply, “How do you know he’d choose your side?”

Cap didn’t want his friends to be divided, but they chose to stand with him because they’re friends. This meant friends faced off with friends. Isn’t this something that happens in real life? You side with one friend for whatever reason – and it isn’t just because they’re your friend.

What reason would a hero have for standing against his friends? See number one and three above. He believed it was the just thing and his integrity is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Being a Vigilante

Hero or Vigilante?
Hero or Vigilante?

I’m in the middle of watching the third season of The Arrow on Netflix. The police call him the vigilante. Except for one man – a (police)man who has been rescued by him.

So what does it mean to be a vigilante?

Dictionary.com says a vigilante is “any person who takes the law into his or her own hands, as by avenging a crime.” So a person who seeks their own brand of justice. They take an eye for an eye.

Because sometimes the legal system fails. There is no such thing as a perfect government with only fair laws that are always enforced.

Does that give a person the “right” to take things into their own hands?

Instead of giving you my answer, let me offer up examples. Comic book examples: Batman, Spiderman, Superman and many others. More movies have been made on this topic than almost any other.

In a fallen world, I don’t think fallen people should seek their own brand of justice. I ascribe to this principle “avenge not yourselves, but give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

However, notice that this says to avenge not yourselves.

Captain America did not decide to selfishly help one friend while annoying all of his other friends. Cap saw injustice. He had the power to stop it. So he did.

He minimizes the collateral damage of death to innocents in every way he can. Isn’t that what policemen, and military, and others whose “job” it is to protect the rights of all citizens do?

This is the reason he wouldn’t sign the accord. If he did, suddenly he became subject to a governing authority. Because, let’s face it, those with superpowers are above the average law. We can only hope they’re going to fight on the side of right, because who can stop them?

(More on this issue in my next post.)

No longer without Personal Entanglements

One of my author friends told me that Cap would always put friendship first and that wasn’t always in the best interest of the wider scope of world problems.

And yet…I believe Cap chose only to endanger himself when he went after Bucky. He gave Sam the chance to opt out. When they headed to the final battle, it was only Cap and Bucky facing their foe.

I don’t want to give away anything for those who haven’t seen the movie, so you should stop reading now if that is you. SPOILER AHEAD!

Cap_IronMan_CivilWar
Image credit: technobuffalo

Cap admitted to Wanda that his concern for Bucky compromised the team. He took full responsibility for the collateral damage on the mission where this happened.

Further, he stepped beyond his “no romantic attachments” barrier by kissing Sharon Carter. Whether or not that makes her his Lois Lane, I don’t know. She certainly isn’t a helpless wallflower. After all, she’s a CIA agent with obvious skills. With an aunt like the amazing Agent Peggy Carter, she can probably hold her own against the bad guys who might abduct her to get to Cap.

Still, Cap no longer meets my third qualification. I said heroes with love interests were “forced to choose between their love and the wider world.” When Cap was forced into that situation in Civil War, I don’t think it had to do with his personal feelings. As I said in my earlier post: “he will never compromise his principles and favors no individual as more redeemable than another.”

I don’t believe he favored Bucky above Iron Man in the newest film. They were equally his friend.

However, Bucky needed help because he was being used as a pawn by someone with vile intentions. In this case, what looked like favoritism toward a friend was actually Captain Rogers protecting the underdog.

Because that’s what true heroes do.

**Original image for header on this post can be found here. All credit goes to those artists.

What do you think? Is Cap a vigilante now? Or is he still a hero? Can he be both?