2014’s Cultural Battleground – Evan’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

kissingbannerI chose to sort these posts in the order they were published, so we start things off on a very personal note, one which set the tone for many of the others I wrote in 2014. Our individual choices regarding how we approach physical intimacy can and should differ, and here I thought “out loud” with my fingertips, recording how exactly I got to where I am today.

My stance had its pros and cons weighed, both those other people may see and the ones that I do personally. In exploring them I covered how many other Christians view the act of kissing, used a number of really fantastic gifs, and even embedded a poll [the most responded to on the site] which asked readers which direction I should take from this point onward. No, it had no real effect my personal life choices. Yes, it actually is a dead even 50-50 split at the time of this writing.

2musicvideosbannerIf you had told me at any point during the year that I would be writing not one, but two analyses of music videos in the very same month I would not have believed you [here’s the other one]. I also would not have been able to guess that the one discussing both Ingrid Michaelson and Jennifer Lopez’s songs would be my personal favourite of 2014.

Sexism continues to be a problem, in popular music especially, and both artists sought to upend how men and women are normally portrayed in the medium of music videos. Unfortunately the results appear to merely perpetuate the status quo [in Lopez’s case] or miss the point entirely by resorting to cross dressing [in Michaelson’s] and likewise continuing to depict the female subjects much more sexily than the male ones. If it’s the thought that counts then consider both successful, but if we want to move anywhere beyond that they’re severely lacking.

posterchildwhiteprivilegebannerI know this post had to make my list because just thinking about it continues to make me angry. No, it’s not the clickbaity title of the original article, it’s the place from which the writer, Tal Fortgang, addresses all those who dare ask him to “check his privilege”.

My breakdown started before Fortgang’s own open letter, choosing to first pick apart the introduction written by The College Fix associate editor Jennifer Kabbany. It ended with a close analysis of his argument that being both White and male in the United States of America, born to Caucasian parents born to Caucasian parents, has afforded him no advantages in life [FUN FACT: it has].

The number of friends [and I use the term loosely] who I saw sharing this on Facebook drove me to write a counterpoint, and one that I only wish more people could have read. Being told to “check your privilege” should never result in a person writing 1,300 words about why they shouldn’t have to, it should lead them to ask themselves what they just did that was insensitive or wrong.

orderupbannerThis post isn’t the first one to open up with a short work of fiction to prove a point, and come the end of this year it isn’t even the first parable [a feature I may consider adding], but it is a genuine depiction of how Asian and Asian-American viewers feel when being presented with much of today’s pop culture.

Big Hero 6 was a film that should have, given the original source material, starred an all-Japanese cast. Instead we were presented with characters bearing a wide ethnic range not one of which was full-blooded Japanese. As Hollywood and much of the rest of the entertainment industry tunes in to their increasingly more diverse audience choices will be made, and some that will be made to, ostensibly, appeal to more people will instead disappoint those who it should have reached out to in the first place.

After seeing the film for myself I had more hard evidence to back up my original thoughts, but at the end of the day this was an animated children’s movie that could have shone a genuine, earnest light on an actual, single corner of the world and decided not to for the sake of what we’ll call “accessibility”.

johnchobannerHow we view ourselves has so much to do with what we see of ourselves in the media, and that’s just as true when it comes to thoughts of attractiveness as anything else. While pop culture’s depiction of women and how it has impacted the self-esteem of females both young and old the world over has taken centre stage in this particular discussion, and for good reason, what’s often skipped over is how racial minorities are in the exact same boat.

I trace my feelings of aesthetic inadequacy back to a conversation I had several years ago and draw it to the present, where my favourite new sitcom of 2014 a) stars an Asian-American male as the romantic lead and b) has been cancelled. The latter not withstanding, Selfie was more than just hilarious [and it was], it introduced on national TV the concept of Asian men actually being desirable, and it deserves all the credit in the world for that.


The 2014 Culture Wars were, for me, extremely personal. That’s never more apparent than when I picked apart my stance on locking lips, but it also cropped up in my criticism of one of my favourite musical artists. How every one of us chooses to process the world we live in is our own little foray into the conflict this blog takes its title from, and it’s often a conflict in more ways than one.

It falls to every one of us to field our intellectual and emotional reactions, whether it’s to a “Poster Child for White Privilege” or an animated children’s movie that we expected that much more from. This year I decided to let my feelings steer me towards the aspects of culture that directly affected my own life. Who I am as a male Christian Asian-Canadian now-24-year-old provides me with a perspective that you may not share, but my hope is that my observations resonate with you nonetheless.

This year I decided to voice how our culture was impacting me, and it’s an activity that I hope I, and every one of you, will do much more of in 2015.

-Evan.

2014’s Cultural Battleground – Kat’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

jianghomeshibannerThe Jian Ghomeshi scandal was a big deal for most Canadians. Ghomeshi felt like someone we all knew, someone who had been a regular presence in our homes (and cars) as long as he had hosting Q on the CBC.

In October, the CBC put pressure on Jian Ghomeshi to go on a leave of absence. Shortly afterwards, he wrote a post on Facebook accusing the CBC of firing him over his preference for rough (but consensual sex). Many fans believed Ghomeshi when he claimed the women who had accused him were liars who just wanted attention.

Given his popularity, I understood why people jumped to defend him when the first few allegations of sexual violence came out, but there was something about his Facebook post that just felt wrong. It seemed unlikely that anyone, much less more than one person, would make a sexual assault accusation just for attention. As I started to do my own research on the topic, I quickly realized that false rape reports are so rare that they are almost non-existent, and that the tendency to believe Ghomeshi over his (at the time) anonymous victims spoke to a much bigger systemic issue.

injusticesystembannerIt’s really hard to care about how terrible our justice system is unless someone close to you has gone through it. In this post, I discuss some of the things I noticed when I visited someone close to me during his stay in jail. Despite firmly believing that this person deserved to go to jail, that experience opened my eyes to the way prison (and the bureaucracies surrounding it) take damaged people and make them ever worse. As someone who works in special education, it made me even more angry to realize just how many of the adults in prison are individuals with special needs.

problemwithpuritybannerThe conversation around the purity movement tends to be very divisive; feminist websites like Jezebel have called it creepy, while many Christian communities staunchly defend the practice. Since I consider myself both a Christian and a feminist, I wrote this post to point out the really great intentions that are (usually) behind the purity movement, while still drawing attention to the damage it can cause.

duckdynastybannerAfter the Duck Dynasty star spoke out against homosexuality and was kicked off his show, my Facebook wall started to fill up with “I support Phil” memes. This made me really, really angry.

Having grown up Evangelical, I understand how many Christians feel they cannot accept homosexuality as something that honours God. Personally, I no longer accept that dogma, but I can understand it. I didn’t even write this post to argue with that branch of theology. I wrote this post because I was furious that Christians are happy to defend a millionaire because he broke his contract and got kicked off his TV show, but are unwilling to acknowledge that homosexuals are being killed and actually persecuted all around the world.

voluntouristbannerI’ve written many posts that address the Christian community. I do this because I still consider myself a member of that community, and I want to call out the issues that I believe are distracting from the message of love we claim to be sharing. Despite my many critiques of the church, some of the most amazing people I’ve known are Christians. I wrote this post about my experience living in a missionary community in Niger, where I was surrounded by people who I truly respect.

This post also addresses “voluntourism”, since my own selfish motivation to move overseas was something I felt personally convicted about during my stay in Africa. Recently, however, the discussion of the voluntourism trend has made westerners afraid to express interest in foreign aide at all. I believe both extremes can be damaging to international relationships.


Looking back, it’s sometimes scary to think about how much I have shared with you guys. It’s always a vulnerable step to publicize our personal opinions, it’s even more so with details about our personal lives. Intimidating as it can be, I’ve loved how many amazing discussions the blog has opened up in my life. Your comments (in person and online) have helped me reevaluate my own biases, and challenged me to think more deeply about the social, religious, and political issues we love to debate here at Culture War Reporters.

So here’s to a fantastic year. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings.

- Kat

2 Broke Girls, S4E7 “And a Loan for Christmas”: A TV Review

loanforchristmas

Can you imagine if all TV shows handled their midseason finales the same way The Walking Dead does? Which beloved character would we create petitions to resurrect? Would the Williamsburg Diner be short a staff member or lose their most valued customer? Honestly, just thinking about it makes me wish it would happen, if only to really mix things up.

“And a Loan for Christmas” is a direct sequel to last-last week’s episode, “And the Brand Job”. To save you the time of watching it for yourself, or even reading the review, that installment of Max and Caroline’s wacky adventures concerned their respective business plans, with the former’s coming to life in the cold open: snarkily decorated cupcakes and t-shirts are on full display. What’s more, these new wares are doing great [no surprise, really]. So great, in fact, that there’s talk of acquiring some capital, because you need to spend money to make money-

- and I want to stop you [and Caroline] right there and be upfront with you all: I don’t know a lot about finances. Continue reading

2014’s Cultural Battleground – Gordon’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end this year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2014 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.

christianmartyrsbannerThe rise of ISIS/ISIL/IS/”The Terrorist Organization Formerly Known as Prince” has driven a number of issues to the forefront of public discourse. “After 13 years of continual war, should the US embroil itself in yet another conflict?”, “Is lesser-evilism to be accepted in the form of the Assad regime?”, and perhaps most interestingly, “What should be the Christian response to the slaughter of score upon score of Iraqi Christians?”

It was Kat who actually outlined her take on the response many Christians in the West seemed to have, leading her to question if a kind of masochistic glee was being taken in bloodshed. In response, I argued that this absolutely is the case, and that the blood of the martyrs waters the weeds of self-pity.

deadsoldiersbannerOne of the more divisive stories of the year was the rescue of Sargent Bowe Bergdahl, who hadn’t even set foot in the US again before being lambasted as a traitor and a coward of the worst breed. I argue that, had Bergdahl died in captivity, the very same people who’ve shouted themselves hoarse with accusations would be sobbing and lamenting over his loss. Bergdahl’s sin, like so many American military men and women, is that he survived one of America’s wars, and, in returning, serves as a reminder of the true cost of conflict, sacrifice, and hubris.

donlemonbannerOne of the last posts of the year, I decided to include my tirade against CNN’s Don Lemon not because of what he is now, but what I think he might become. His general obliviousness and gutlessness make him a bad journalist, to be sure, but the streak of relentless pettiness he’s demonstrated (see the aftermath of his Cosby-rape comments or his Reza Aslan interview) make him downright dangerous. Lemon seems to have pattern of grasping for anything to cover his ass when he gets caught in a mistake, often leading him to rely on the worst abuses of his position to defend himself. In the coming year, I can only imagine that Lemon’s “sail-with-the-wind” ethics will make him one of the most negative forces in our culture. If he weren’t so corrosive, I might almost look forward to that.

christiansinpopmediabannerFor all the sins of Western Christianity (and they aren’t few), I truly believe that it has, as both a religion and culture, been ruthlessly strawmanned by its critics over the years. In this post, I attempted to draw up some of the worst (or at least, most popular) stereotypes of Christianity and explain just how wrong and unfair they are. I argue that the general laziness in the portrayals of Christians and Christianity is not only inaccurate, but gives the real issues a free pass. As this culture drifts further and further away from a common religious heritage, I think it’s  more important than ever to ensure that everybody gets a fair break.

surprisewitnessbannerSince most of my posts (okay, all of them) tend to focus on what I don’t like, I figured I’d end on what I do- and that came to us in the form of our new installment “Surprise Witness”. Here, we got to defend an aspect of culture which we think actually has some value, and although Evan and I only tested it out once this year, I’m hoping we can incorporate it a lot more in 2015. With it being so easy to paint things in strokes of only good and bad (and nobody’s more guilty of that than I), being able to glean something decent from our cultural refuse should be a good exercise for us all.


So what’s this all mean for us?

Looking back, it seems that we’re becoming more introspective as a culture. More and more, it seems that we are becoming actively involved in voicing our views and values, and turning criticism inwards on ourselves. How we deal with race, sexuality, power, faith, ethics- these are all rising to the forefront of our discourse. In spite of what some have argued, the Culture Wars are far from over. If anything, they’re just getting started and I, for one, am looking forward to that.

See you in the trenches. Have a good new year.

-Gordon

Don’t Watch Exodus: Gods and Kings, Sorry About No Real Post, Please Comment About the Relative Effectiveness of This Song Parody

I guess first thing’s first, apologies about having no real post for today. The second thing is way more important than the first, because I need to remind you all that you should not see Exodus: Gods and Kings. I one hundred percent realize that the title of the last post [and its very contents] refer to Christians and their responsibility to be generally good people, but isn’t that the way we should all live? Just be good people, don’t support this:

"You

And honestly, if that wasn’t a good enough reason not to watch it there’s also the fact that apparently it’s terrible. And I quote, from the very beginning of that review:

“This is one of those moments when a movie comes along that is so repugnant, and so bland, and so pretentious, that it’s almost impossible to believe. And yet, like a voice from a burning bush, Exodus is an unbelievable event that will nevertheless lead thousands of people on a terrifying quest — to movie theaters.”

To go back to my original point, however, the main reason I don’t have a new post up today is that life has gotten very busy with my leaving the country this upcoming Wednesday. All that being said, I will have a post next Friday, a special one that will share a certain theme with those of my co-writers.

I’m actually pretty excited for it. Should be good.

Continue reading

Not Strictly Literary: 6 Unexpected Subjects You Learn About in English

I’m currently in the last year of my English undergraduate degree. Well, kinda. I will probably have to do an extra semester to finish off my credits completely, but after next semester I will have finally finished all my English requirements.

Like many students, I kind of fell into my major. In my first year of full time studies I was seriously considering a degree in economics, or anthropology. Until I took a class in those subjects and quickly changed my mind. Once I started figuring out what kind of classes I actually liked, I started talking about doing my degree in Sociology, Political Science, or Environmental Ethics. Then, when I transferred to UVic, I decided I would take their writing program. Well I thought I was decided, until I was invited to join the English Honours program. That invitation totally went to my head and I dropped everything in order to pursue that (very structured) program.

Because of the number of required English classes (and because I blew many of my elective classes during first year), I’ve been taking pretty-well only English classes for the last two years. During that time, I began to ask myself if I had made the best choice. After all, English is really just reading books, isn’t it? Couldn’t I do that in my own time?

Ah, reading for fun/relaxation. Can’t wait until I get to do that again.

Now that I’m getting close to the end of my degree, I’m able to look back and be thankful for (almost) all of the English classes I needed to take. Yes, I still feel like there are a million others I wish I could have taken, but I think I would have felt that way regardless of my major. There are more fantastic courses out there than what you can possibly fit into one undergraduate degree.

Getting close to the end has also allowed me to reflect on the many English courses I have taken and realize just how broad a range of subjects they actually address. I’ve included a few examples below.

Linguistics

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 10.32.54 AM

One of the texts we are translating for our final project.

I’m currently finishing off a class on Middle English that I did not want to take. Not at all. I’m required to take a class in early English literature, so I chose this class after a friend recommended the professor. I was then pleasantly surprised to find that it was a fantastic class. It was also not at all what I was expecting.

English has evolved considerably since the 12th century, so it’s hardly surprising that trying to read Middle English texts is like reading an entirely different language.

At the beginning of the class our professor touched on many of the other languages that have influenced the formation of the English language. Then, as the class progressed, a lot of the work we did in class involved translating various works. The translation process required a basic understanding of how to parse language, something I had almost no experience with. Like many English speakers, sentence structure is something I know intuitively, not something I’ve intentionally learned. However, if my experience in Quebec this summer taught me anything, it’s that knowing how to break down language is key to learning a new one. So I’m hopeful that the linguistic skills I’ve been struggling to learn in this class will help me with my future language learning goals. Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S4E6 “And the Model Apartment”: A TV Review

modelapartmnet

The last “big” guest star I can remember 2 Broke Girls featuring was Grammy-nominated rapper 2 Chainz in what was hands-down the worst episode of the show I can remember reviewing. Similar to that last instance network synergy is what brings the Victoria’s Secret Angels to the sitcom, with The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show airing tomorrow night on CBS. The creative push behind this particular twenty-some minutes of television finds its source not in the writers’ room but in a boardroom, and the results are far from stellar.

Remember when I wrote a single review about the pilot episode of MTV’s Underemployed? That was a show entirely about young attractive men and women who were just barely making it through life [note the title of the show] while at least 1/3 of the cast lived in one of the biggest, nicest apartments I have ever seen. That lines up pretty well with Max and Caroline of Broke Girls
constantly making note of how tragically poor they are while residing in an enormous apartment that has, revealed in this episode, a literal barn attached to it complete with sunroof.

WHAT IS THIS WHAT IS GOING ON

WHAT IS THIS WHAT IS GOING ON.

I remember how in the pilot episode Max explained that she didn’t pay rent because the previous tenant died yet continues to pay for it with his pension cheques or something along those lines but are you kidding me? My suspension of belief already took a beating when they decided to keep the horse, but now to find out that they have an entire barn? Is that why they’re so poor? Otherwise, honestly, it makes no sense since they both work two jobs and none of what they make goes towards rent. Continue reading